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Six journalists leave Imedi TV

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Thursday, December 27
Six journalists announced on December 26 that they are leaving Imedi TV, after station founder and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili was accused of plotting to overthrow the state.

All of her departing colleagues remain proud of the work they did in the past four years, producer and journalist Rusudan Tskhomelidze said in a televised joint statement explaining their departure.

“We are proud of these investigations, about [the controversial murder cases of]Girgvliani, Robakidze and other cases,” Tskhomelidze said, emphasizing that the journalists never worked under editorial pressure or orders from higher-ups.

Tskhomelidze was joined by five other journalists, all of whom were correspondents for the popular “Droeba” news program, anchored by political programming head Giorgi Targamadze.

“We had the highest quality of freedom, thanks to the head of our political programs, Giorgi Targamadze,” she said.

In a secretly recorded videotape released December 24, Patarkatsishvili’s then-campaign head, Valeri Gelbakhiani, is seen apparently telling a top Interior Ministry official that Targamadze is going to assist in drumming up anti-government sympathies among voters to help the coup go forward.

Targamadze has denied any connection to Gelbakhiani’s plans.

The journalists declared that the government raid on Imedi TV on November 7 was unacceptable, but so are the “recent events” in the country.

“Badri Patarkatsishvili, the founder of our TV company and a candidate in the presidential election, has been at the center of recent developments. So, it is unacceptable for us to continue working at Imedi TV, because even our journalistic freedom can now be distorted. For that reason, we are leaving Imedi TV. And we ask all of you not to give any political interpretation to our decision,” Tskhomelidze said.

The journalists did not say what organization they would move to, but pledged to remain devoted to their professional principles regardless of where they work. The six declined further comment.

Yesterday evening, Patarkatsishvili, in a televised statement, thanked Imedi’s journalists for their hard work and protection of freedom of speech, adding that he senses a disquieting “self-restraint” among Imedi’s journalists in the weeks before the presidential election.

Within hours, Imedi TV staff announced they going on strike until Patarkatsishvili relinquishes ownership of the network.

More than a dozen journalists in total have now left Imedi TV, one of the country’s two leading television stations, since it was shut down on November 7.