TBILISI, DFWatch – The siege of a Tbilisi TV station is over. Producer Mamuka Glonti finally left after being holed up in a cramped studio for a day and a half, saying he was afraid of bloodshed.
Exhausted and almost without a voice, the producer of an independent TV station in the Georgian capital emerged from his confinement to explain to Georgians the reasons for his decision. Speaking on the state broadcaster First Channel, he said he was afraid the situation could turn into a bloodshed.
According to Interpressnews, Glonti said he he had received a tip-off that someone was preparing to stage a shooting and this would lead to police intervention. This was the reason he decided to give up the fight and leave the studio.
So far, Glonti’s staff of journalists and technicians are remaining loyal to him as their boss and have abandoned the Maestro premises, continuing their broadcast from an alternate location used for Maestro radio. Thursday night, the radio’s studio was cramped with tv cameras and technicians and a haphazard live broadcast continued into the morning summarizing the day’s dramatic turn.
The crisis in Maestro started when a new opposition politician appeared live on Maestro TV, one of two independent stations in the Caucasian nation, Tuesday night. Immediately after, the owner of the stations managing company demanded to consult with staff to change the editorial line. Journalists refused, citing editorial independence, and the manager, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, fired three of the top people, who resisted their dismissal.
Maestro TV signed a three year contract with Kitsmarishvili in November 2009, and got a large influx of financing in return, which made way for a technical face lift and laid the basis for their current popularity. After the crisis erupted, the top people who were fired, including Glonti, said they had annulled the contract.
After a day of besiegement negotiations were started, an initiative of the journalists association, concerned with the work conditions of Maestro staff. Kitsmarishvili maintained his view that Maestro journalists have gone off the rail in admiration for the businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili and have lost their independence, which was his reason for intervening in their reporting.
Glonti described the negotiations with Kitsmarishvili as terrifying. He needed a fifteen minutes’ break, and when he reentered the room, Kitsmarishvili directly threatened him to take the studios by force. That was when he decided to leave the building, in order to avoid a bloodshed. Glonti had received information that a there was being planned a staged shooting which would lead to police intervention.
After leaving, Glonti Thursday night confirmed that he and his friends were still maintaining that the contract with Kitsmarishvili is annulled, and they claim to hold the rights over the TV station. The struggle will continue in the courts, he told his baffled staff in the busy radio studio, which for the time being functions as the TV’s main quarters.