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Georgian tycoon gathers support

by | Oct 15, 2011

In Georgia, a businessman who one week ago set out to unseat president Mikheil Saakashvili is quickly gathering supporters while the small Caucasus nation is eagerly awaiting his TV appearance. One of the country’s most well-known literary figures, Chabua Amirejibi, as well as a well-known fotballer, have thrown their support behind the financier.

Since releaseing his declaration October 7 Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili has been the center of attention from both Georgian and international media who want to know what he has in mind with his plan to spend his fortune on removing Saakashvili from power.

Two small cable channels and the state broadcaster have been in negotiations with the tycoon about having a live broadcast so he could explain to Georgians what his plans are.

He received his first proposal from the Georgian Public Broadcaster, and then from the two Tbilisi based stations Maestro and Kavkazia, which Ivanishvili accused of being in league with Saakashvili. Both channels want to have him on live so he can talk to the nation and have a chance to explain why after years of leading a near anonymous life he suddenly wants to be the country’s new leader.

Initially set for Friday, the broadcast has been postponed, pending negotiations appearantly centering on the location. Ivanishvili wants the TV crews to come to his futuristic complex in the hillsides above Tbilisi, while both government and cable TV wants him to come into their studios.

Later also Rustavi 2, another presumably government-controlled channel, expressed its readiness to host such an interview. But the public broadcaster and cable channel Imedi TV have said they are against Rustavi 2 getting it. Also, online newspaper Netgazeti suggested to Ivanishvili to have live video streaming from his office, but they did not received an answer.

Until Friday, no media outlets had been able to get access to the financier, but yesterday Reuters’ reporter Margarita Antidze managed to secure an interview with him. The interview was recorded in Tbilisi at the businessman’s office. Antidze has said the interview touched upon Bidzina Ivanishvili’s views about economics, as well as his views about country’s internal and foreign policy.

According to her, the interview was recorded on video and will be available for TV stations.

Meanwhile, two journalists that were personally criticized by Ivanishvili made official statements as a response to the businessman’s proposals. In his second statement, October 12, the businessman suggested to well-known TV journalist Shalva Ramishvili at Maestro to pay for a revival of his animated political satire show Dardubala of the early 2000s.

Shalva Ramishvili yesterday made his position clear on his Facebook page. The announcement contains 8 points.

“I think that Bidzina Ivanishvilil’s resources (financial and intellectual), his ties and greatest trust he has in the population are the greatest chance to get rid of Misha. I want to participate in this,” he writes, and says he is willing to revive his show Dardubala.

Then he responds to Ivanishvili’s accusations that Maestro is pseudo-oppositional just carrying out Saakashvili’s orders.

“I don’t think that Maestro in which I’m working is biased.I know how the channel is being run and I believe that Ivanishvili is wrong when he calls Maestro a special purpose television,” Ramishvili writes on Facebook.

David Akubardia, journalist and director of Kavkazia also rejects Ivanishvili’s accusations made a few days ago.

“I won’t even start retelling what it cost for me to keep alive almost the only independent television at the time when you were charmed by your friend Vano Merabishvili and practically were his partner,” –the journalist writes.

“I’m telling you directly and plainly: I don’t need your money to sell my own beliefs and freedom.”

Akubardia still suggests to him to come to his television station for an interview guaranteeing it to be objective, in spite of all the offending accusations the businessman has levelled against him.

“In an other age I would challenge you to a duel. However this is the twentyfirst century and I, a TV journalist, invite you, a businessman, on his way to politics to my studio as an ordinary mortal to an ordinary mortal.”

Bidzina Ivanishvili suggested to buy Maestro and Kavkazia for three times their market value, promising to create an atmosphere in which the freedom of speech will be guaranteed and to hire all journalist for whom objectivity and freedom of expression is precious.



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