Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Georgian channel's future uncertain
While the court process and discussion of a founder and presenter of 202 TV Shalva Ramishvili was the headline news Monday, some Tbilisi residents questioned what would happen to channel's programs and to the channel itself.
Founded in 2002, the station took a low-budget approach to producing analytical and often satirical news shows. According to the monthly television rankings by AGB Georgia, as of June the station was the sixth most popular station in Tbilisi, ranking between two musical channels Evrika-Maestro and First Stereo.
"Maybe they did not have some modern technology and live reporting, but the Debates [the weekly political talk show] themselves were interesting," said Nino Mumladze who works in an NGO and has a background in journalism.
"I think the society has the right to have a free and independent media and of course, it would be sad if I am deprived of the opportunity to watch the programs like the investigative pieces on 202," Mumladze told The Messenger.
The station's Debates show broadcast this Sunday though with another presenter who analyzed the arrest of Ramishvili. A self-described "frequent" viewer of Debates, Nino Veshapidze said Monday she fears that the program will soon be terminated and there will be no chance for the opposition to discuss the latest events on television.
The channel was founded in 2002 by a group of Georgian humorists who worked
at the Georgian radio station Radio 101 and on an animated series Dardubala criticizing the ex-president of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze.
A hearing on Monday ended with Ramishvili being sentenced to three months' pre-trial detention. Civil Georgia reports:
At a pre-trial hearing Shalva Ramishvili, who claimed innocence, made the first statement after he was arrested on August 27.
“Firstly, I have never blackmailed or extorted money from Koba Bekauri. On the contrary, for past three months Bekauri had been mounting pressure on me and on my friends through blackmail and threats, saying that this film [which included compromising materials against Bekauri] should not be broadcasted. There are many persons, who know about it and have witnessed this fact. This will be proved by an impartial investigation,” Shalva Ramishvili said.
Tina Khidasheli, a legal expert and the member of opposition Republican Party has already stated that she has witnessed “for several times” who MP Bekauri was calling Ramishvili and asking him not to air investigative reporting about his activities. “Shalva [Ramishvili] was very angry and was telling him [Bekauri] not to call him anymore,” Khidasheli said.
In his statement during the pre-trial hearing Ramishvili also revealed a new detail in the case.
“At the same time, my and Bekauri’s common friend contacted me and offered to take money in exchange for blocking the film. I have no doubt about the honesty of this person, who is very important for my future fate. This person is the owner of the apartment where the money was arrested,” Ramishvili said, though he did not specify the name of the person.
“Now about why I agreed to take money and what the society has watched [on a footage shot by the police hidden camera]: when Bekauri’s actions went beyond the limit, I, in agreement with [Vakhtang] Komakhidze [journalist from the organization “Reporter” producing investigative reporting about Bekauri], decided to shoot footage by hidden camera showing how much Koba Bekauri would pay to prevent the airing of a compromising material,” Shalva Ramishvili said.
Ramishvili said that he has become a victim of his “badly planned investigation.”