News

Hijacked Tbilisi TV cut from sat link

by | Jan 3, 2012


TBILISI, DFWatch – A TV station in the Georgian capital has had its satellite link cut. The studios of Maestro TV were taken over November 30 by a businessman who held management rights to it, after which journalists and staff fled the premises.

Since then, Meastro’s satellite link has been used by the businessman to show a feed from Reuters. But now the Turkish satellite company Turkast has cut off the Reuters feed.

Tbilisians have been witness to a strangely split TV station in recent times, with two versions of Maestro broadcasting in parallel — one through the air and on the net, and one via satellite.

The cofounder and former producer at Maestro Mamuka Glonti left the Maestro building together with journalists on November 30. They took with them some of their equipment and are now broadcasting from a radio studio via cable. Their broadcasts are visibly lacking in technical resources, their news reports without names and on the bottom the letters “SOS” are constantly shown.

Meanwhile, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, head of Rustavi Media Management company, which signed a management contract with Maestro two years ago, remained in the building and is broadcasting via a Turkish satellite.

But now the signal has been stopped on the orders of the general director of Maestro. They appealed at the beginning of December to the company to stop the satellite signal for Maestro. The company stopped the signal on December 30 after all Maestro’s debts were covered. The negotiations between Maestro and the Turkish company lasted nearly a month.

They also appealed with this request to the National Communications Commission, but the commission didn’t acknowledge that Maestro’s broadcasting was illegal and Kitsmarishvili therefore was able to broadcast from the Maestro building via satellite for nearly a month.

“The Maestro satellite broadcasting won’t be turned on without our permission,” Mamuka Glonti said today. “The document signed by Turkast indicates that the right on Maestro broadcasting has only the General Director Ilia Kikabidze.”

On January 1 the Interior Ministry released a statement saying that police officers noticed cars in the yard of the Maestro building and a variety of things were removed.

“With a motive to check whether the action included signs of crime or not tried to stop the car for checking, but the driver didn’t obey the police and with an aim to escape, crashed into the police car,” the statement says.

The car was detained by the police.

Two days later, today, Rustavi Media Management Company released a statement about the incident, describing it as a provocation. It says that two of their employees were driving the car while strangers attacked them and they didn’t have police badges, they didn’t show their IDs.

“They stopped the company car and used physical and psychological violence against the company workers. Afterwards, they took them on the territory of grave and continued physical abuse,” the statement says.

It also says that no one informed the company of the detention, and the employees are now being held in predetention cells.

Criminal procedures are instituted regarding the case, according to the Interior Ministry.



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