07TBILISI3167, IMEDI STRUGGLES AND SUSPENDS OPERATIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3167 2007-12-27 13:41 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0317
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #3167/01 3611341
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271341Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8522
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003167 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/PPD AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO GG
SUBJECT: IMEDI STRUGGLES AND SUSPENDS OPERATIONS 
 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary.  Imedi TV voluntarily ceased operation shortly 
after 20:00 hrs on December 26, 2007.  This was a decision of News 
Corp management after 16 key Imedi journalists announced their 
resignations in the aftermath of the release of a number of video 
and audio tapes in which Badri Patarkatsishvili, Imedi owner and 
opposition presidential candidate, is allegedly implicated in a coup 
plot.  However, Imedi's head of public and political programs, 
Giorgi Targamadze, in a live television broadcast publicly blamed 
the closure on government pressure.   End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Imedi's current closure was announced in a staged tableau 
with Giorgi Targamadze, the head of public and political programs, 
and Bidzina Baratashvili, general director, sitting side-by-side at 
a table in front of some 20 Imedi journalists crowded into an Imedi 
studio.  Giorgi Targamadze stated on live television that Imedi was 
temporarily suspending broadcasts due to "pressure and blackmail" on 
the part of authorities. He said the government's accusations 
against Badri Patarkatsishvili "have put the television station 
staff in an extremely difficult situation." Targamadze assured the 
public that the channel would be back on air in the New Year, 
together with a change in the station's ownership. "We are thinking 
of ways to save the channel. One option is to transfer 100 per cent 
of the shares ... to another owner. This could be to a creative 
group of the TV station's personnel or to persons who are well-known 
and respected by the public and our traditional partner the News 
Corporation."  (Note: Without a change in ownership, many 
journalists say they will not return to the station.) 
 
3.  (SBU) After Targamadze's speech, reporter Merab Metreveli 
stepped out from the crowd of journalists, grabbed the mike from 
Targamadze, and said, also speaking for the other journalists: "It's 
unacceptable for us, as for every other normal person, when Interior 
Ministry representatives tried to commission a Chechen to murder 
Badri Patarkatsishvili.  On the other hand, the methods 
Patarkatsishvili wanted to use to come to power are also 
categorically unacceptable." 
 
4. (SBU) The most well-known faces of Imedi TV, leading reporters, 
anchors, technicians and administrative staff, have now left the 
channel. The brain drain started in the wake of the November 7 
shutdown when Inga Grigolia, the popular anchor of the Reaktsia talk 
show, left because of "Badri Patarkatsishvili's publicly stated 
desire to run for presidency." Earlier in the afternoon of December 
26, six journalists from Imedi's most popular show, Droeba, called a 
press conference to announce why they quit the station: "Badri 
Patrakatsishvili, the founder of our TV company and a candidate in 
the presidential election, has been at the center of recent 
developments. It is unacceptable for us to continue working at Imedi 
TV, because even our journalistic freedom can now be misused." 
 
5. (SBU) The public has generally reacted favorably to this second 
closure of Imedi.  Most representatives of the Georgian media and 
public called the decision of the Droeba journalists "a painful 
step, but the only right step," and "an adequate reaction to the 
exposure of Badri Patarkatsishvili's true intentions." Some 
journalists said "I would do the same not to become a tool in 
Badri's hands," while a few thought the Droeba crew needed to 
"provide a better justification for their decision" or even that "it 
was an emotional, but unprofessional decision." 
 
6. (SBU) Government figures emphasized they had no role in the 
closure, and the Prime Minister stated that he was in contact with 
News Corp Executive Vice President Marty Pompadour to find out News 
Corp's plans for Imedi TV. Meanwhile, Opposition figures generally 
insist that Imedi TV only suspended its broadcast due to government 
pressure. 
 
7. (SBU) Many observers feel that this action by Imedi journalists 
represents a breakthrough in the professionalism of the Georgian 
media that will serve to liberate other media from political 
pressure.  Lasha Tugushi, editor-in-chief of daily Resonance said 
that "the time has come for media to self-regulate and to be 
self-critical."  Observers praised the professional ethics of Imedi 
journalists, with the exception of Targamadze whose live statement 
was perceived as unbalanced, and pure political theater. In private 
conversations with the Embassy, Droeba journalists shared their 
concerns that Targamadze's actions went beyond acceptable 
journalistic standards, but, rather, reflected the behavior of a 
politician. 
 
8. (SBU) Comment. Since its initial reopening on December 12, Imedi 
TV has been careful to be more balanced in its reporting even though 
their owner is a candidate for the presidency.  But the latest 
revelations concerning Patarkatsishvili seem to have made this 
closure necessary, in the opinion of News C
orp.  It is now essential 
that the government of Georgia not be perceived as having shut Imedi 
down.  Many in Georgia are now waiting for some comment from News 
Corp.  End Comment. 
 
 
TBILISI 00003167  002 OF 002 
 
 
TEFFT

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