Leader of UNM minority group in the Parliament, MP Davit Bakradze, said that the opposition party will keep on its struggle for media freedom in Georgia, which, he said, is now under danger because the government wants to take over Rustavi 2 TV.
He made the statement on behalf of the UNM party on October 30 after two wiretapped recordings were leaked onto internet on October 29 in which Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, discusses “defending” Rustavi 2 TV through erecting barricades, calls for “going through revolutionary scenario” and speaks about the need for “physical confrontation” during which “faces should be smashed”.
Saakashvili formally remains the chairman of the opposition UNM party.
“There only one answer to a question why the country is in the crisis: because the government tries to seize Rustavi 2 TV,” UNM group in the parliament, MP Davit Bakradze, said.
“It is quite clear that the government is fighting against freedom of speech through Kibar Khalvashi [former owner of Rustavi 2 TV who tries to reclaim the broadcaster] and judge [Tamaz] Urtmelidze [who adjudicates dispute]… and all these have brought the country and the society to a very serious danger and risk of confrontation,” he said.
“Therefore, the key question about why the country is facing crisis and tension, has one and simple answer – it happens because the government started taking steps aimed at seizing Rustavi 2 TV; therefore, defusing of situation depends on ceasing this process,” he said.
“As far as violence is concerned, I want to state it categorically that we have never planned, are not planning and will not plan any violence,” Bakradze said.
“Our struggle is only within the framework of law and constitution and it was confirmed by the developments of last week when over 30 offices [of UNM across the country] were raided in the regions; not a single activist from our [party] did anything in response, because we are fighting only within the frames of the law and constitution. Our goal is to see this government off through peaceful elections. Our goal is to speak not about barricades and coups, but about stalled pensions, stagnated economy, increased poverty and hardship in the country,” he said.
“We will struggle through constitutional means, but I declare it clearly that we will struggle to the end for freedom of speech, for defending Rustavi 2 TV,” Bakradze said.
Praising Rustavi 2 journalists for their “professionalism and high ethical standards”, Bakradze told them: “Our joint struggle is not based on… ideological or political affiliations; I am coming and I will come to Rustavi 2 TV’s yard not because I am a member of the United National Movement, but because I am a part of this society, because the struggle which we fight together today is the struggle for better future of our people.”
Rustavi 2 TV head Nika Gvaramia said earlier on Friday that the broadcaster will no longer call on its viewers “to rally in defense” of the television channel.
“This is our common struggle,” UNM MP Bakradze said referring to Rustavi 2 TV journalists. “You are playing a very important role in this struggle. I respect each of those journalists, who are performing their duties professionally against backdrop of blackmail, pressure and violence.”
“We will continue our struggle through constitutional and peaceful methods and by distancing from violence in order to protect freedom of speech. Today the line of defense lies on speech passes through protecting Rustavi 2 TV. Therefore, in this struggle we will stand to the end and win a victory together with Georgian society,” MP Bakradze said.