07TBILISI3092, IMEDI BACK ON THE AIR, MICHNIK AND MONITORS IN PLACE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3092 2007-12-13 12:51 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0946
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #3092/01 3471251
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 131251Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8435
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003092 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/PPD AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV KPAO GG PHUM
SUBJECT: IMEDI BACK ON THE AIR, MICHNIK AND MONITORS IN PLACE 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary.  After 34 days off the air due to a governmental 
shutdown, Imedi, Georgia's most popular television network, resumed 
full broadcasting on the evening of December 12, 2007.   While some 
technical difficulties remain, Imedi is broadcasting nationally and 
by satellite to London and Moscow.  Their first evening of 
programming kicked off with an hour-long, emotional, and somewhat 
provocative recounting of the events of November 7, 2007, when the 
station was raided by Interior Ministry forces and shut down.  Imedi 
does not appear to have changed its largely anti-government 
editorial policy, and Giorgi Targamadze, their politicized anchor 
and chief editor, remains in control of the station's editorial 
policy.  On December 13, Polish journalist and politician, Adam 
Michnik, returned to Tbilisi and held a press conference to announce 
he was beginning his work as a media ombudsman and to introduce the 
members of his media advisory group which will monitor news 
broadcasts of five television stations and all of the major 
newspapers.  End Summary. 
 
IMEDI IS BACK AND HITS BACK 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (U) Imedi resumed its broadcast with the 8 p.m., one-hour Kronika 
news program with emotional video footage of the November 7 events 
against a jarring audio backdrop of the  song "Everything Is Going 
to Be Fine,"  interspersing images of the police crackdown on 
protesters with the smiling faces of children playing at the Imedi 
premises.  Kronikia started off with Imedi replaying footage of its 
last minutes on air on November 7, featuring a drawn Targamadze 
announcing the police raid and going off the air.  After a brief 
pause, Targamadze appeared live in the Kronika studio, saying: 
"Imedi is back on Georgian television. The uninvited guests have 
left the studio. We hope to be the last journalists to be forced out 
of a TV studio at gun point."  Imedi reporters and cameramen 
recounted physical abuse they were subjected to by the police on 
November 7. According to them, 30 Imedi reporters and cameramen were 
injured that day.  Interspersed throughout the program were 
statements by Georgian officials publicly accusing Imedi of 
"escalating tensions." Later in the evening, Imedi ran a special 
talk show with Imedi staff and public figures talking about the 
closure and resumption of broadcast at the station. After the 
initial report their reporting was balanced. 
 
3. (SBU) The head of the Imedi TV Information Service confirmed to 
the Embassy that the station will offer limited news programming for 
the next two months, with thirty minutes of news every three hours 
during the day and the one-hour Kronika at 8 p.m. Five days a week 
Imedi will run Ghia Eteri, a political talk show at 11 p.m. and 
Targamadze will host the weekly Droeba show on Sunday evenings. 
 
4.  (SBU) Surprisingly, Georgian media reaction to Imedi's reopening 
was muted. Having covered Imedi's shutdown extensively, the 
country's leading newspapers did not include articles or editorials 
on the topic of its reopening, with the exception of a front page 
article in the (low circulation) English-language daily "Georgian 
Messenger" and an interview with Imedi TV's lawyer published in 
daily pro-reform Resonance.  None of the Television news shows 
carried stories about Imedi. 
 
WHAT DIRECTION WILL IMEDI TAKE NOW? 
----------------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) According to Lewis Robertson, Imedi General Manager and CEO 
of News Corp Caucasus, Targamadze, Anchor and Director of Imedi TV 
Political Programs, and the news staff wanted to devote their  first 
four hours on air to the events of November 7, but he insisted on a 
one-hour limit.  But in recent newspaper and television interviews, 
Robertson has stressed that Imedi will not change its editorial 
policy.  "We never did anything wrong a month ago.  We never called 
to overthrow the government.  We have video tapes of what was said 
and what was not said. If the government does something good, we 
will say that that is good, but if the government does something 
bad, we will say that that is bad."  Targamadze will be on air less, 
but will remain the primary political editor, with the 
responsibility to determine editorial policy. 
 
6. (SBU) It appears that News Corp may not technically have any 
ownership in Imedi, and that Badri Patarkatsishvili, a declared 
presidential candidate, remains the primary owner, but Robertson 
stressed that News Corp has a contract and power of attorney to 
manage the station, and that he would not allow Patarkatsishvili to 
direct the station. 
 
7. (U) The campaign spokesman for the National Movement Davit 
Bakradze, the State Minister For Conflict Resolution who is on a 
leave of absence to serve as the campaign spokesman, made a public 
statement welcoming Imedi back on air, while noting its unclear 
ownership.  He promised that Government officials "will continue 
cooperatio
n with Imedi TV journalists". 
 
 
TBILISI 00003092  002 OF 002 
 
 
MEDIA MONITORING: MICHNIK ARRIVES, SETS UP SHOP 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
8. (SBU) Adam Michnik, the new media ombudsman for Georgia, arrived 
back in Tbilisi on December 12 and on December 13 held a press 
conference to announce he will begin monitoring five Georgian 
television stations during the election campaign to be able to 
report on media bias in their reporting.  His group will monitor the 
television newscasts of Imedi, Rustavi 2, Mze, Public television, 
and Kavkasia.  These are four of the five national stations, 
representing both pro-government and pro-opposition views, and a 
small anti-government station that broadcasts only in Tbilisi.  They 
will also monitor the seven major newspapers in Georgia.  He 
announced the formation of his media advisory council, consisting of 
seven prominent Georgian journalists and experts: journalists Lasha 
Tugushi, Zviad Koridze, and David Paichadze, think tank leaders 
Alexander Rondeli and Gia Nodia, and public figures Levan Khetaguri, 
Nato Murvanidze.  Two of these experts are also members of the Media 
Council (see below). 
 
THE GEORGIAN MEDIA COUNCIL 
-------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) The Georgian Media Council, established three years ago as 
a European initiative but inactive for years, has now resumed its 
functions.  On November 28, the Media Council, together with NGO 
community representatives, developed 12 recommendations for media to 
ensure fair and objective coverage of presidential elections.  The 
document was signed by its Chairman, Gigi Tevzadze, Rector of 
Chavchavadze State University; by journalists Paata Veshapidze, 
Ninia Kakabadze, Eka Kvesitadze, David Paichadze, as well as NGO 
directors  Ghia Nodia, of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, 
Democracy and Development, and Levan Ramishvili, of the Liberty 
Institute.  One of the recommendations calls for pre-election 
monitoring of the broadcast media. The first findings of the 
monitoring group are to be announced on Friday, Dec 14. 
 
ONE MORE MONITOR TOO 
-------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) Also on December 13 OSCE and ODIHR announced they are 
setting up a media monitoring group to oversee the Georgian media 
during the election campaign.  Rasto Kuzel, a Czech media analyst 
and NGO leader (Memo 98), and his staff of five have already begun 
their work. 
 
11. (SBU) Comment. Thanks in large part to USG and EU efforts, Imedi 
is back on the air.  Clearly all parties recognize the importance of 
the media in this election campaign and are doing what they can to 
monitor reporting.  Right now it is not clear how the various 
parties will work together.  End Comment. 
 
TEFFT

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