Iberia TV, a Tbilisi-based station, has suspended broadcasting amid its management’s claims that the authorities are trying to shut down this critically-minded television station. The management says the TV company is no longer able to cover its operational costs.
The decision comes five weeks after employees and owners of Iberia TV accused the authorities of pressure and artificially creating financial problems to the Omega Group’s cigarette production company – Omega Group Tobacco (OGT). Omega Group is the owner and the main funding source of Iberia TV.
It also comes after Zaza Okuashvili, one of the founders of the Omega Group, implicated the Georgian Dream leadership in extortion, racketeering and money laundering.
A caption reading “The authorities have Closed down Iberia!!!” appeared on television screens late on October 16.
According to Vakho Khuzmiashvili, head of Iberia TV’s newsroom, the authorities “did everything to shut down our programming, and have successfully managed to achieve that.” “Full responsibility for what’s happening in Iberia TV rests with the authorities,” he said.
MP Nato Chkheidze, one of the founders of Iberia TV, commented on the matter as well, saying the authorities have been trying to achieve the goal for the last two years. “This is very regretful not only for Iberia TV, but also for the entire country, because when governments challenge media with such methods, it does not reflect well on them,” she added.