TBILISI, DFWatch – Two employees of a TV station in Tbilisi who were arrested four days ago have been sentenced by a court to fifty days pretrial detention.
The two are employed by one of the two opposing sides of a crisis-struck Maestro TV. The independent cable station was split after its manager broke into the studios November 30 and took control over most of the expensive equipment.
Journalists fled to a radio studio and have been keeping the signal alive under what they call emergency conditions. Broadcasts are lacking name tags and other technical effects, and journalists have been trying to get back their equipment, but police have barred them from entering.
The two who were jailed, Valery Gikashvili and Mikheil Zedgenidze, are employees of Rustavi Media Company, the company which bought Maestro’s management rights two years ago and are now in physical control of its main studios. They were arrested on charges of appropriation of Maestro’s equipment and resisting police.
The company protests the court decision and calls for the public defender and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor what is happening and react.
After the arrests happened on January 1, Georgia’s Interior Ministry released a short statement saying that police officers had noticed a car which may have been used for taking away some equipment from the Maestro building. The police tried to check the drivers, but the car didn’t stop and while attempting to escape, crashed into the police car.
Their arrest was protested by Rustavi Media Management Company, which called it ‘a provocation’.
Meanwhile, the staff of Maestro are continuing their emergency broadcast from Radio Maestro’s studio via cable. The „second Maestro“, under Rustavi Media Management’s director Erosi Kitsmarishvili, was broadcasting for a month via a Turkish satellite, but one week ago the Turkish company cut their signal based on an agreement with Maestro’s general manager, who is on the side of the staff.
“On January 3, 2012, employees of Maestro’s head company were presented with unsubstantiated allegations. And on January 4, Tbilisi City Court sentenced them to imprisonment,” says the statement Kitsmarishvili’s company released regarding the Court’s decision.
A preparatory hearing in the case is scheduled for February 28.