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Prominent Imedi TV anchor quits station

By Ana Datiashvili
Monday, January 14

Giorgi Targamadze, a prominent anchor and director of political programs at Imedi TV, announced that he is leaving the station at a press briefing on January 12. He also said that speculation over him reentering politics was “close to the truth.”

Targamadze, a former MP, was once a leader of ousted Adjara leader Aslan Abashidze’s political party.

“Imedi’s existence in the Georgian media landscape was once taken as an indication of democracy in Georgia—unfortunately I am talking about this in the past tense. We want to work but we don’t have the opportunity,” the television station Rustavi 2 quoted Targamadze as saying.

Imedi TV temporarily suspended broadcasts on December 26, its employees citing a desire to “to distance ourselves from dirty political games,” after the government produced tapes it claims show Badri Patarkatsishvili—the station’s founder and co-owner—planning a coup in the run up to the presidential election.

At the time a joint statement released by Imedi journalists said the station would resume broadcasts once control of the station was fully transferred from Patarkatsishvili to the station’s staff or “a respected group whose impartiality would be beyond doubt.”

News Corporation, which also has management rights to the station, was being considered for this, the statement read.

However, on Saturday Targamadze said no agreement had been reached between Imedi staff, Patarkatsishvili and News Corporation.

“All this time we tried to save Imedi, personally I was doing my best, to preserve Imedi, this was the goal of my life,” stated Targamadze. “It is not clear for me why the owner [Patarkatsishvili] was so inattentive toward this problem, toward the channel that was created by him, it is not clear also for me why News Corporation is so negligent also,” he continued.

“I think it makes no sense for me to work at Imedi, so I am leaving the channel, although my motivation to fight for freedom of speech is doubled,” he added.

In December, Targamadze denied reports he was considering a political career. However, on Saturday he said that a decision to enter politics would rest on consultations with his family and Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, adding that he did not rule out joining a political party.

Political expert Ramaz Sakhvarelidze told the Messenger he would not expect to see Targamadze joining any existing political party.

“He will most likely establish a new, independent political organization, though I doubt this will successful for him,” Sakhvarelidze said, highlighting other cases of prominent figures such as Irina Sarishvili who have set up their own parties yet remain on the fringe of Georgian politics.

Conservative MP Kakha Kukava, a member of the nine-party opposition coalition, said they would happily accept the Imedi anchor, should he ask to join them.

“We haven’t discussed the issue yet, but this would be good. Giorgi [Targamadze] is extremely smart and we appreciate his standpoint,” Kukava said.

Imedi TV was initially shutdown by authorities on November 7—a day of massive unrest on Tbilisi’s streets as police clamped down on anti-government protests. It remained off-air after being accused of airing statements encouraging the violent overthrow of the government, but resumed broadcasting on December 12 before voluntarily suspending broadcasts two weeks later.