TBILISI, DFWatch — A former owner of a Georgian TV station claims that he was forced to sell it by the former government.

TV Mze (which in Georgian means ‘Sun’) was launched by millionaire Vano Chkhartishvili, a member of parliament before the Rose Revolution in 2003. In recent years, it has been a pure film and entertainment channel, but it used to broadcast news and lively political debates.

That ended in 2004.

Lawyer Dimitri Gabunia, speaking on behalf of Chkhartishvili, claims that President Mikheil Saakashvili called his client and asked him to relinquish his 100% of shares in May 2004. Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili was also involved in this incident.

“There was psychological terror against Vano Chkhartishvili. They say that Chkhartishvili was paid USD 144 000 for his shares, but he did not get even one dollar” said Gabunia.

Eldar Mdinaradze, another of the founders of the TV company, believes the problems began after the murder of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania in 2005. The host of the talk show On the Verge of Choice, which ran on Mze at the time, asked a very pointed questions about this case which has never been subject to a proper investigation.

After the former owners sold their shares, TV company Mze stopped broadcasting news and talk-shows.

The US State Department’s 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices notes that the takeover of Mze happened shortly after an influential parliamentarian appeared on that show and criticized comments made by the program host. But the government denied any connection with the cancellation of this show, the report notes.

The report notes that On the Edge of Choice  was often critical of the government.

Dimitri Gabunia said, that former government continues to control media. He thinks, that TV company Imedi is also controlled by the former government, despite the fact that it has been taken over by its original owner, Badri Patarkatsishvili’s, family.

Dimitri Gabunia believes that the former government is trying to use Patarkatsishvili’s family against Chkhartishvili. He claims that Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and former defense minister David Kezerashvili visited Patarkatsishvilis widow Ina Gudavadze in London and planned to transfer the shares in Mze to her.

The former owners of Mze are going to complain to the prosecutor’s office and present what they call proof to back up their claims.

They demand a criminal investigation of Gigi Ugulava, David Kezerashvili and David Bezhuashvili.

At the press conference it was also announced that Mdinaradze and Chkhartishvili are working to found a new TV company named Mzera, which will be staffed with journalists who have previously worked at Mze.