The opposition Georgian Party said on December 30, that allegations that its political secretary, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, was pressuring on Maestro TV “is groundless.”
In a brief written statement the party said: “It has already been nine months since Erosi Kitsmarishvili has not been involved in management of Maestro TV; he has not and is not meddling in its editorial policy in any form.”
“For all the leaders of the Georgian Party, including Erosi Kitsmarishvili, freedom of speech and journalists’ editorial independence is a matter of principle. Use of media outlet as a mean in political struggle is unacceptable for the Georgian Party,” it said.
Maestro TV’s general director, Kakha Bekauri, claimed at a news conference on December 29, that Kitsmarishvili, who founded a firm which has three-year contract to manage the station, was pressuring Maestro TV to become “a mouthpiece” of the Georgian Party. Bekauri said that the move met his and Maestro TV’s owners’ resistance, which eventually led to financial difficulties forcing the station to suspend news programs.
Later on Thursday evening Kitsmarishvili spelled out his position in more details when he was interviewed by the Tbilisi-based radio station Palitra.
He suggested that Bekauri’s “utterly groundless” and “unexpected allegations” seemed to be “a continuation of what is happening against the Georgian Party recently.”
Kitsmarishvili was referring to allegations voiced by ex-parliamentary speaker and leader of opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, Nino Burjanadze, who accused one of the co-founders of the Georgian Party, Levan Gachechiladze, of engaging in shadowy and corrupt deals with President Saakashvili three years ago.
Although Kitsmarishvili did not directly link these two separate developments, he, however, said that "this type of accusations voiced against me look like those allegations, which were leveled against the Georgian Party recently."
Kitsmarishvili, a former Georgian ambassador to Russia and ex-ally of President Saakashvili, also said that although he was a founder of the firm, Rustavi Media Management Company (RMMC), which took over management rights of Maestro TV in November, 2009, he had not been involved with the TV station’s affairs for more than nine months already, since his company appointed Kakha Bekauri as the Maestro TV’s general director.
He said that his genuine goal by taking the management of Maestro TV year ago was to create an independent TV station and a provider of news alternative to those carried by pro-governmental nation-wide broadcasters.
Kitsmarishvili also said that with his efforts the Maestro TV raised “two millions” for launching news channel in May, 2010 and part of this sum, he said, was his personal. He, however, claimed that while doing this he had no other interest except of contributing to creation of genuinely independent and non-partisan news channel.
“We raised funds and we created conditions for startup and after that we stepped aside; all the rest was up to a person from the managing firm to do – in this case it was Kakha Bekauri,” Kitsmarishvili said.
Bekauri claimed on December 29 that Maestro TV was “blackmailed” by Kitsmarishvili. He said that after refusing to yield Kitsmarishvili’s pressure, the latter’s company in charge of TV station’s management stopped transferring funds. Bekauri also said that Maestro TV was planning to launch procedures for ceasing contract with RMMC.
He shunned away from responding questions about what RMMC’s position would be about Maestro’s decision to cancel the contract. Kitsmarishvili said that although he was a founder, he had nothing to do with RMMC’s day-to-day management and it was up to its executives not him to respond.