TBILISI, DFWatch – The staff of an independent TV station in Georgia are keeping alive its broadcasts from a radio studio, as its former producer warns that there are only days left until they get cut from the airwaves.
“Maybe there are just days left for us to broadcast. The implementation of Imedi 2 enters a decisive phase,” wrote Mamuka Glonti on his Facebook page Thursday. Imedi is a TV station which was formerly admired for it’s independent reporting, but was stormed by police in 2007 and later came under government-friendly control.
The co-founder and former producer at Maestro TV wrote that they have information that the government has begun to put pressure on the cable companies for them to ‘switch off Maestro.’
Maestro is currently broadcasting from its radio studio, while Erosi Kitsmarishvili is in negotiations with cable companies to restore TV broadcasting from its original building, which he is in control of.
On November 30, Kitsmarishvili and around ten unknown men broke into Maestro’s main studios by climbing over a wall in the early morning dusk. Maestro journalists called the police for help to make the intruders leave the building. But instead, Kitsmarishvili fired Mamuka Glonti and the general director at Maestro, and the police evicted most of the staff. The journalists have since been requesting to restore normal operations.
“If society will let Maestro be switched off then society will let the elections be fake and Misha [President Saakashvili] be an eternal president. Let’s save Maestro together.”
Friday, the journalists of Maestro will hold a protest rally to ask for protection of their rights and to restore normal journalistic activities. They released this statement yesterday, which DFWatch publishes unchanged:
“The turbulence around Maestro TV doesn’t give us, the journalists, the opportunity to work properly, which first of all is an intervention in our professional obligations. We understand the responsibility we have towards the public. Society expects information from us and this is the biggest harm caused by the current events. The decision made by the government, from different directions, we think makes these events more difficult. We remind you that the warning of Interior Ministry’s main office of December 7, 2011, to the founder of Rustavi Media Management, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, demanding that he leave Maestro’s premises immediately, is still not fulfilled. The Municipal Court didn’t satisfy the request of Maestro’s owners to prohibit Rustavi Media Management Company from all activities in the name of Maestro until the end of reviewing the case in the courts. Society remembers well and knows the examples of what problems have been created for independent media. It’s important for us to restore full broadcasting of Maestro and fulfill the public interest, but the current tendency makes us think that some problems may be raised to Maestro broadcasting. To avoid these appropriate, bodies should carry out their responsibilities by law.
The public has already lost Imedi TV. The public shouldn’t lose Maestro. We are ready to fight for this, by our activities as well as protest rallies. We have the hope of solidarity, because solidarity had the real results regarding the reporters’ case.”
‘The reporter’s case’ refers to the case against four photojournalists who were accused of being Russian spies last summer. After a concerted campaign in their support by people working in the media, the four were released under a plea bargain agreement without the case going to trial.
(Image shows Eka Beridze presenting a regular talk show called Pirdapiri Saubari from Maestro’s makeshift studio.)