Levan Gachechiladze, an opposition politician, who is one of key figures on the ongoing rallies, slammed the public TV and threatened “to slap in face” broadcaster’s general director, Levan Kubaneishvili, if he ever meets him again.
“Today Levan Kubaneishvili, [Levan] Gakheladze [chairman of the public TV’s board of trustees] and their gang are doing their best to trigger bloodshed in Georgia – I say it with full responsibility. The situation in the [early] 1990s was beginning in the same way. I say it with full responsibility. If blood is shed in Georgia – and it will be bloodshed between criminals and Georgian people – just these people will be the provokers,” Levan Gachechiladze told protesters outside the Parliament on April 24.
“I think that we should cancel their accreditation to these people [journalists from public television] during these rallies, which are the rallies of the Georgian people, because it is better to cover nothing at all, rather than to do that in a way like it is done [by the public TV]. I am quite serious about it because I feel the smell of bloodshed coming from this television more than from Rustavi 2 TV,” he said.
No “accreditation” is required for any journalist to cover ongoing protests and Gachechiladze’s remark simply is a call for banning public TV journalists from appearing on the protest venues. He said that it was his personal opinion and “idea” was not agreed with other opposition leaders. He, however, said he would raise this proposal with other opposition leaders.
He then continued his speech by attacking public TV general director Levan Kubaneishvili.
“Today Kubaneishvili conveyed a message to me – he is afraid to personally meet me because I promised him that I would slap him in the face publicly and only afterwards I would talk with him and I will really do it wherever I meet him, even if I am detained for 30 days for that… So he conveyed a message to me saying that because ‘you [the opposition] are acting like this, a minute and a half live broadcasts are over for you’ [on public TV].”
Reportedly there was a verbal agreement between the opposition leaders and the public TV top management to make live broadcast from the protest rallies, when the opposition leaders were making statement about the future plans.
“I responded him [Kubaneishvili]: ‘do you think it is bad for me? It is bad for you, because when those people throughout Georgia fail to see anything [on public TV], they will move towards the capital; you have no brains’,” Gachechiladze said.
Earlier on April 24, the Georgian public broadcaster released a statement saying that “threats and pressure” have increased recently “from the radical wing of the political opposition.”
“The public broadcaster confirms that despite pressure it will act in accordance with the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting, the Code of Conduct of Broadcasters and the Code of Conduct of the Georgian Public Broadcaster,” the statement reads.
The public television issued the statement after some opposition activists, including Giorgi Khaindrava, a former state minister, had a verbal argument with a reporter from the public TV, calling her “a provoker.”
“Attacks against journalists as a method of political struggle is absolutely inadmissible for the public broadcaster,” the statement reads.
The opposition parties, behind the ongoing protest rallies, are complaining that the public TV is providing “biased” and “incomprehensive” coverage of the protest. They also say that the public TV was resorting to “black PR methods” in order to discredit ongoing rallies.
While covering recent developments related with the ongoing protests, public TV showed in its noon news bulletin on April 24 several pictures from the protest venues. In one of the footage a man – a context of the coverage gave indication that he was one of the opposition activists, keeping vigil outside the Parliament - was seen urinating at the fence of Kashueti church, close to the Parliament.
Meanwhile, a group of 16 journalists working in various regions of Georgia released a joint statement condemning cases of obstruction to the work of journalists.
“Although neither the public broadcaster nor journalists of this television station have never reacted to cases of intimidation, violence, threats and other forms of pressure on independent journalists in the regions, we believe that insult of a journalist and obstructing journalist’s professional activity, no matter by whom – by opposition or the ruling party representatives – is absolutely unacceptable,” the statement reads.