Badri Patarkatsishvili created Imedi TV, which was central in anti-government protests in 2007. He ran for president in January 2008 and died shortly after. Imedi was taken over by an investor close to the government. (IPN.)

TBILISI, DFWatch — The director of a government-controlled TV channel and a key figure after the rose revolution has left his position.

Control over Imedi TV was Tuesday evening handed over to the family of the deceased businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili, who owned the channel and made it into a symbol of independent reporting admired in Europe.

When a wave of anti-Saakashvili sentiment shook the country in 2007, it became a medium for voices of discontent, but was stormed by the police and shut down, and later taken over by an investor close to the government in early 2008.

Tuesday evening Imedi TV released a brief statement, according to which the owners of the channel and the family of Patarkatsishvili, who ran in presidential election in 2008, signed an agreement, and as a result, the family is again in control of the channel.

“The process of transferring Imedi to the family has started and we will do our best so that Imedi will be a professional and objective channel,” family members say.

About half an hour before Imedi released the statement, it became known that Giorgi Arveladze, a person close to President Mikheil Saakashvili and a former economy minister who has been general director of the channel in recent years, held a meeting with employees announcing that he was leaving.

Patarkatsishvili owned Imedi TV until his death in January 2008. Since then, his widow has tried to regain control over the channel. The businessman owned Imedi during a period of turmoil in Georgia which peaked in November 2007, when police stormed the TV station’s studios, destroyed equipment and closed it down.

Imedi then went back on air, but was strictly prohibited from broadcasting anything to do with politics until after both the presidential election January 2008 and the parliamentary election May 2008 had been conducted.

One of its most well-known journalists, Giorgi Targamadze, went into politics and founded the Christian Democrat party, which has been the parliamentary opposition for the last four years.

Afterwards, it became a pro-government channel and as such joined ranks with Rustavi 2 and Channel 1 in foisting the Saakashvili government’s line onto viewers.

During this period it has failed to report on important events in the country and dedicated most of its news programs to endless reports about government achievements, carrying live feeds of the president and other officials as they were opening roads, factories, parks and boasted about their own success.

After the recent election, which was won by the Georgian Dream coalition, government-controlled media came to a moment of crisis. Imedi shut down all its humor and entertainment programs; the former owners of Rustavi 2 started fighting to regain control of that channel, while Channel 1 closed its talk shows on politics and social issues.

More background here