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State TV Protest Blow for Shevardnadze

 State TV Chief Resigned, Amid
 Shevardnadze’s Criticism

President Shevardnadze’s surprise move to criticize the state-owned First TV Channel, triggered anger of the state TV chief and journalists. The fact comes as a serous blow for the government, in the midst of the political crisis in the country. 

While addressing the government’s meeting on November 19 President Shevardnadze called the media sources to cover the ongoing developments in the country “as they need to be covered.”

“I am asking printed media and television broadcast companies, first of all, the first [state] television channel, to cover events as they need be covered. One cannot stand simultaneously on both sides [opposition and authorities]. At least one television channel ought to work for the benefit of the government… But I definitely cannot thank the first television channel in this regard,” President Shevardnadze said referring to the state TV channel.

In the wake of the President’s statement chief of the State Radio and TV Corporation Zaza Shengelia convened a special press conference to announce that he resigns.

“I cannot work in the television, which covers only the position of one side. The state television does not mean, that it should defend the interests of the government,” Shengelia said at a special news briefing on November 19.

He also said that the President is blinded by his own team. “There are many good people among the President’s allies. But unfortunately most of them are extremists and dishonest people,” he added.

Later on the same day Koka Kandiashvili, leading journalist at the state TV channel and anchor of the daily talk show, slammed President Shevardnadze for his statements.

“I am not going to continue my talk shows until the First TV Channel becomes the real state television and not the governmental as it was before,” Koka Kandiashvili said in the live broadcast of his talk show.

Eduard Shevardnadze’s decision to criticize state-run TV was a surprise as it seemed that the authorities should have been satisfied with its work and coverage of the current events in the country, especially on the eve of the disputed Parliamentary elections.

According to the preliminary assessment of the November 2 parliamentary elections in Georgia issued by the OSCE, “both state controlled TV and state newspapers were biased.”

“On Channel 1 [of the state television] news broadcasts, the President, the government, and the For New Georgia [pro-presidential election] bloc received some 71% of all airtime dealing with the political issues,” the preliminary report of the OSCE reads.

“It seems that it was not enough for the President. It seems he wants us to work like Adjara TV. The State TV Channel will never become Adjara TV,” Dodo Shonia, a leading journalist in the state radio company said.

According to the OSCE preliminary report “Adjara TV, owned by the [Adjara] Autonomous Republic provided extensive and dutiful coverage of Aslan Abashidze [Adjarian leader] and [his party] Revival Union, while reporting on other political subjects in a negative manner, in particular the [Mikheil Saakashvili’s] National Movement.”

“This very unpopular move [to criticize state TV] was really surprise. It seems that there is a chaos in the government and in the President’s team. With this move the authorities finally lost information war, in the midst of the political crisis,” Giga Bokeria of human rights advocacy NGO Liberty Institute says.

The resignation of state TV chief was good news for the opposition, as the move is being seen as a sign that support for President Shevardnadze is weakening among his allies. Opposition supporters intend peaceful march on capital Tbilisi from deferent regions of the country to demand Shevardnadze’s resignation.

Meanwhile Shevardnadze’s couple of thousand supporters keeps rallying outside the Parliament building for the third day. The rally is organized by the Revival Union, led by Aslan Abashidze.


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