Journalists Wednesday responded to the wealthiest Georgian Bidzina Ivanishvili’s call for them to form an alliance to unseat Mikheil Saakashvili, while experts debated whether Georgia had the right to revoke his citizenship.
Tuesday night, the tycoon-turned-politicians had the support of at least the viewers, if not the staff, of two small cable TV stations which have become central to one of the world’s richest men’s attempt at removing Mikheil Saakashvili from power.
On the channel Kavkazia, 91% of viewers voted that the decision to revoke Ivanishvili’s citizenship was unlawful. Alsmost exactly the same percentage voted similarly on an almost identical question on the sister cable channel Maestro.
But the administration and staff at the two independent TV stations are measured in their responses to the entices from the tycoon to form an alliance, in order to return Georgia to its people.
“Maestro’s cooperation with Ivanishvili, Mikheil Saakashvili, Putin, and Obama and with everyone is real: who will finance us? Maestro is grateful for all money that isn’t acquired illegally, we are ready to cooperate,” Mamuka Glonti, co-owner of Maestro, told the Georgian online newspaper Netgazeti.
In his second declaration to the Georgian people Wednesday morning, Ivanishvili sets out his terms for the alliance in a special proposal to Maestro:
“1. I’m ready to take over on any financial commitment [thereby avoiding the need for today’s invested money] that no-one knows how [Maestro owner Erosi Kitsmarishvili] got.
2. Sign an agreement to guarantee editorial freedom, which will ensure freedom to journalists, even critical towards my work.
3. All journalists will be employed for whom freedom of speech and personal dignity is precious. Together we will create an opportunity for them to be releases from pseudo-welfare chains.
4. We must return the government to the people and we will do this with your help, with help of the fourth estate,” the statement reads.
The businessman has devoted special attention to Shalva Ramishvili, who now works at Maestro, but used to run his own TV station which was popular during the Rose Revolution in 2003, but was taken from him in a contested extortion case he still maintains his innocence in. There has been speculation that he would join the businessman’s team.
But Mr Ramishvili posted a message on his Facebook page responding to Ivanishvili’s proposal to him.
“Bidzina, such issues are not being discussed in an epistolary genre. Find time and meet me,” Ramishvili writes.
In Wednesday’s declaration, the Georgian billionaire remembers Shalva Ramishvili’s animated political satire show Dardubala, which, according to him, reflected the true situation of the country in those days.
“You really should be creating a new Dardubala today. But instead you are enslaved by the owners of Maestro who are cooperating with Saakashvili. I publicly give you my word: begin creating a new Dardubala, and I will finance it,” Ivanishvili suggests to the journalist.
In another section of his declaration, the businessman discusses the pseudo-objectivity of the media and mentions several political analysts as well as Ia Antadze, a journalist at Radio Liberty Georgia. According to him, government has helped create a group of so-called experts, political analysts, sociologists and quite numerous groups, which “echoes the government’s scenario and shamelessly proves black is white and white is black.’
Ia Antadze published a commentary about Ivanishvili’s first statement, which reflected her position about several subjects mentioned in there, to which Ivanishvili responded:
“An exceptionally clever woman recently named me a pro-Russian force without any arguments, and Saakashvili an apologist for pro-Western liberal values. Yes, she can call me whatever she wishes and I won’t be offended. But how is it possible to see liberal and pro-Western values in a man who established an authoritarian regime in Georgia?” the businessman asks.
Antadze Wednesday clarified what she had meant.
“For years I had been writing that this is not a humane and democratic system, and that I don’t think Saakashvili is a pro-Western leader and someone who is establishing Western values in Georgia,” Ia Antadze told Netgazeti.
She said that Bidzina Ivanishvili did not correctly understand what she had said, explaining that she had not meant how she imagines Ivanishvili’s and Saakashvili’s place in politics, but how they would be portrayed.
“The President will be portrayed as a pro-Western leader; Ivanishvili, as a pro-Russian leader,” Antadze told the web portal.
In Wednesday’s statement Bidzina Ivanishvili explains that he does not want to buy journalists but wants to create a free atmosphere for them to work in, where the freedom of speech will be ensured. He claims that today, the journalists of Maestro and Kavkazia, the only ones to really challenge the Georgian government’s account of ongoing events to a broader audience, are working in an “offensive and limited environment”.