07TBILISI2944, DAS BRYZA’S NOVEMBER 11 AND 14 MEETINGS WITH IMEDI

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2944 2007-11-21 11:30 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO2308
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2944/01 3251130
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211130Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8252
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 002944 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/FO, EUR/RUS, AND EUR/PPD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPAO ASEC GG RU
SUBJECT: DAS BRYZA'S NOVEMBER 11 AND 14 MEETINGS WITH IMEDI 
MEDIA LEADERSHIP AND JOURNALISTS 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2792 
 
     B. TBILISI 2752 
     C. TBILISI 2729 
     D. TBILISI 2719 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, reason 1.4 (b), and (d). 
 
 1. (C) (Summary) During his visit to Tbilisi DAS Bryza held 
three meetings with the management and journalists of Imedi 
television.  On November 11, Lewis Robertson, CEO Newscorp 
Caucasus and Imedi General Manager; Bidzina Baratashvili, 
Imedi General Director; and Irakli Rukhadze, Manager of 
Selford Holdings and Badri Patarkatsishvili,s representative 
in Georgia, met with EUR DAS Matt Bryza.  Bryza listened to 
details of the November 7 raid on Imedi television and its 
subsequent shutdown, and expressed USG concerns and the State 
Department,s call for the State of Emergency to be 
immediately ended and for all media broadcasting to be 
resumed.  Robertson responded that they could resume limited 
broadcasting within 6 hours and that they could accept some 
sort of independent monitoring of journalistic ethical 
standards as long as there were no government restrictions on 
how to cover the news.  In later meetings on November 15 with 
Imedi journalists and with Baratashvili and in a phone 
conversation with Robertson DAS Bryza discussed in greater 
detail his suggestion that a journalistic code of ethics be 
developed by Georgian journalists and that a European Media 
ombudsman should be named to oversee adherence to that code 
of ethics.  The Imedi journalists expressed concerns about 
censorship, but welcomed  details of such a system, including 
Bryza,s clarification this would not constitute censorship. 
The journalists wanted to discuss it further with Newscorp 
superiors.  Baratashvili, who had earlier suggested the need 
for such a system, mentioned that he had already been 
discussing the details with an influential Georgian newspaper 
editor, and expressed a willingness to find a way to make it 
work.(End Summary). 
 
NEW DETAILS OF NOVEMBER 7 AT IMEDI 
------------------------------- 
2. (C) November 11, Baratashvili told Bryza there were at 
least five groups of Special Forces at Imedi on the night of 
November 7. "Each group seemed to act quite differently and 
to have its own orders," he said.  Baratashvili said that 
some police were quite professional, especially the regular 
police, others wore blue jeans and did not appear to be 
police at all.  In spite of repeated requests, Imedi staff 
were never shown a warrant or court order for the raid. 
Baratishvili said that he and others had guns held to their 
foreheads.  The Imedi representatives said there was 
extensive destruction of equipment during the raid, and that 
film and programming archives were destroyed.  They also said 
there was wide-spread vandalism and looting by security 
forces. The Imedi cafeteria was completely looted, and 
security forces were seen carting off cases of water.  Some 
employee,s cars in the Imedi parking lot had windows broken 
and car stereos stolen.  Baratashvili said his jacket and his 
personal cell phone were stolen.  Desk drawers were emptied 
and it is presumed that many items are now missing. 
Baratashvili said he saw one member of the Security Forces 
not wearing a ski mask who appeared to be on drugs. 
Ambassador Tefft requested that they write down a full 
description of the events at Imedi for inclusion in the next 
Human Rights report. 
 
ON THE SAME DAY, AT PATARKATSISHVILI,S AMUSEMENT PARK 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
3. (C) Rukhadze, Manager of Selford Holdings and Badri 
Patarkatsishvili,s representative in Georgia and a 
naturalized American citizen, said that Badri 
Patarkatsishvili has two primary holdings in Georgia: Imedi 
and the Mtatsminda amusement park in Tbilisi.  At 11:00 am on 
November 7 the amusement park was stormed by Police who took 
possession of the park and evicted its employees.  According 
to Rukhadze, this also was done without presenting any legal 
papers.   He later heard on Rustavi 2 television that the 
Mayor,s office said the park was seized for not having paid 
a leasing fee to the City, but according to Rukhadze, this 
fee is not due until November 17, and even if not paid the 
government would not have the right to "storm the park." 
 
LATER EVENTS AT IMEDI 
--------------------- 
 
4. (C) Up to the November 11 meeting with Bryza, Imedi 
officials still had not been informed of a legal 
justification for the raid.  According to Baratashvili, they 
learned from a New York Times interview with MP Giga Bokeria 
that there was an investigation against Imedi.  "Do we have 
 
TBILISI 00002944  002 OF 003 
 
 
to read the New York Times to find out what is happening to 
our company," Baratashvili asked.  He has requested 
information from the government about the status of the Imedi 
broadcasting licens
e and was informed by MP Bokeria that 
there was a lien on their property, and that there will be 
criminal charges.  Rukhadze observed that "a lien is a legal 
document, and must be legally prepared, but we have still 
seen nothing."  No Imedi employees have been allowed to 
return to Imedi to assess damages and see what needs to be 
repaired.  EU Representative Peter Semneby,s tour of Imedi 
premises early on November 11 was broadcast by Public 
Television, the only channel currently allowed to broadcast 
news.  The Imedi management said they were surprised to see 
that there was no visible damage to the station, and that it 
was perfectly clean.  Baratashvili observed, "Frankly, the 
station has never been that clean.  We should hire the 
government staff who did this to clean the station for us." 
He alleged that this clean-up was proof that the government 
was trying to cover up their actions at Imedi. 
 
WHEN CAN IMEDI RETURN? 
---------------------- 
 
5.  (C) According to Robertson, CEO Newscorp Caucasus and 
Imedi General Manager, Imedi could return to the air in a 
limited way, and perhaps only via satellite, within six 
hours.  Rukhadze said that since most Georgian viewers do not 
have satellite it would be essential to return Imedi to the 
regular broadcast airwaves.  This would require government 
support, and enough time to repair or replace damaged 
equipment.  The lack of archives would seriously limit their 
normal programming. 
 
WHY DID IT HAPPEN? 
------------------ 
 
6. (C) Imedi representatives adamantly refused to acknowledge 
that there was any possible justification for the 
government,s concerns about Imedi or for the government,s 
subsequent actions.  Robertson said "Every morning I look at 
what we have shown the night before and I make sure that it 
is balanced." (NOTE  Robertson does not speak Georgian or 
Russian.) When asked about Patarkatsishvili,s famous 
statement that he would spend every last tetri (penny) of his 
money to overthrow the government, the Imedi representatives 
said that the statement was taken out of context. 
Baratashvili said, "We are not here to defend Badri," and 
Rukhadze said, "Badri was calling for Evolution, not a 
Revolution."  When asked why Patarkatsishvili,s statements 
and Okruashvili,s "crazy speech" were repeatedly played on 
Imedi, their response was that these stories were news, that 
people wanted to see them, and that everyone was watching 
them.  They observed that all of the channels covered these 
items. 
 
THE LEAD-UP TO NOVEMBER 7 
------------------------- 
7. (C) In response to a question on Imedi bias, Imedi 
representatives said the government has been boycotting Imedi 
television for more than two years, despite repeated offers 
to government representatives to appear on air.  Since no one 
from the government would appear on Imedi, that left a vacuum 
that only the opposition filled. "Perhaps a structural bias 
was created, but it was created by the government and not by 
Imedi," Batarashvili said.  Imedi representatives said that 
"things are a lot more complicated since Badri is running for 
President."  Once they realized Patarkatsishvili,s political 
ambitions, they asked that he step aside from Imedi 
management.  That was why Patarkatsishvili signed a limited 
power of attorney on October 31 granting Newscorp management 
rights over Imedi for 12 months.  It is important to note 
that Patarkatsishvili retains full ownership of his stock. 
This agreement has been widely misreported on Imedi and in 
interviews by Robertson, and Patarkatsishvili, as the sale of 
all Imedi shares.  In an October 31 press conference, 
Newscorp representative Robertson stated that "Mr. 
Patarkatsishvili will continue to be regularly consulted on 
the direction of Imedi." 
 
MEETING THE WORKING JOURNALISTS 
------------------------------- 
 
8. (C) On November 15 Imedi journalists told Bryza that they 
recognize the need for greater understanding of journalistic 
ethics by the Georgian media, and expressed their willingness 
to accept and abide by some sort of code of ethics and work 
under an ombudsman,s oversight so long as it was not 
censorship, and so long as all Georgian media were similarly 
scrutinized.  They continued to be frankly partisan in their 
politics and quite skeptical of the President and the 
 
TBILISI 00002944  003 OF 003 
 
 
government,s actions and intentions. They stated that when 
Newscorp had begun overseeing Imedi they had hoped for 
training in ethics and standards, but they were never given 
any such training.  During the week of the demonstration they 
stated that every day Robertson would come into their 
newsroom and applaud their unbiased reporting. The 
journalists gave Bryza a warm reception, even when he called 
out a producer for distorted reporting that falsely indicated 
the Georgian Government refused to compromise on any of the 
opposition,s demands.  The journalists implored Bryza to 
continue working toward a compromise that would get Imedi 
back on the air. 
 
GETTING EVERYONE TO YES 
-------------------------- 
 
9. (C) On November 15 DAS Bryza met again with Imedi 
management.  In that meeting he discussed some of the 
concrete details of a proposed media ombudsman.  He mentioned 
that Adam Michnik, a noted Polish journalist and politician 
had been identified as a candidate for such a position.  He 
stressed the independence of such an Ombudsman and that the 
EU would oversee the arrangement.  Batarashvili stated that 
though the final decision would have to be Newscorp,s, he 
felt that the proposal was fair and represented a system with 
which he and his staff could work.  "We agree to have a 
balance, it is in our interest," he said.  He stated that 
they would welcome greater attention to professional 
journalist ethics and standards.  "We are not the slaves of 
Badri or Newscorp, we are professional journalists," he said. 
 When Bryza contacted Robertson, the latter stated that he 
would have to see the details of any proposal.  He said 
Newscorp would not agree to any form of censorship.  He was 
not familiar with the concept of a country-wide media 
ombudsman, but was willing to learn about it.  In general he 
could not make any specific agreement without discussing the 
proposal with Newscorp leadership.  It should be noted that 
the European Council in Georgia proposed a code of 
journalistic ethics in 2006, but that journalists objected to 
it as being a form of censorship and so it lapsed on July 1, 
2007 without being approved.  DAS Bryza observed that the GOG 
seemed willing to allow Imedi to return to the air under 
these circumstances, and was planning to put in place the 
media freedom ombudsman. He said Imedi,s only real decision 
would be whether to resume broadcasts once the GOG gave 
permission to do so. 
 
10. (U) DAS Bryza has cleared this telegram. 
TEFFT

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