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Open Letter to President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili

Wednesday, November 19
A recent report by the international watch organization Reporters Without Boarders recently ranked Georgia 120th among 173 countries as regards freedom of the press, behind countries like Tajikistan, Angola and Uganda. No doubt the forceful seizure and shut-down of Imedi TV in November 2007 had significant impact on world perception of the current situation in Georgia. Imediís silencing was widely viewed as a blow to democratic development in Georgia.

Earlier this year Badri Patarkatsishvili Ė my husband and the founder of Imedi TV Ė passed away. Now I have to defend interests of my family in courts. One of the familyís main goals is to see Imedi TV returned to the family where it will be operated as an independent and uncensored source of news and commentary for the country.

Quickly following Badriís passing, through trickery and deception, Imedi TV fell into the hands of Joseph Kay. Imedi remained silent for a long period. When it did resume broadcasting, in the opinion of nearly all Georgians, it was no longer a free and independent voice.

No specific agreement between Kay and your government has yet been publicly disclosed. But, we must observe that Kayís control over Imedi TV, if it is indeed Kay who actually now controls the station, has been advantageous to the government in silencing public criticism of many events this year. And, despite the fact that Kay used evident fraud to support his claims, the Georgian court gave him control over Badriís estate without conducting any open hearings and despite overwhelming objection by Badriís actual heirs. It is difficult to view this as just a convenient coincidence.

In a recent press conference, we publicly reaffirmed our commitment to having Imedi TV returned to us. Following this, many political and thought leaders in Georgia appealed for the speedy return of the station to Badriís family. We are certainly grateful for these appeals. They reflect broad recognition in Georgia of the clear injustice behind taking Imedi TV, first from Badri and now from his family. They also reflect the general public belief that, under its current controllers, Imedi TV is no longer free of government censorship

Now reports are being spread in Georgia that Imedi will be returned to Badriís family. Although we would certainly wish this to be true, we believe these groundless report are being circulated only to quiet public discontent on the eve of planned rallies supporting media freedom in Georgia. In fact, as you well know, the questions surrounding Imedi TV remain unresolved.

Any action concerning Imedi should occur openly and transparently. I am not a politician and have I have no political ambitions. But, I am not so naive as to think that, given its political significance, Imedi will be returned to us without your instruction. I ask, therefore, that you take this step now Ė openly and transparently.

Mr. President, without respect for private property, rule of law and, of course, media freedom, the world will continue to rank democratic development in Georgia poorly. I encourage you to prove your recent words of support for democracy in Georgia by your actual deeds. Return Imedi to Badriís family. Georgia and the world are watching this.

Respectfully,

Inna Gudavadze

(Badri Patarkatsishviliís widow)

(This open letter, a commercial request, is published unedited in exactly the form it was delivered to The Messenger.)