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Public TV will not let ex-Minister speak

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 11
Georgian Public TV will not provide airtime for Irakli Okruashvili, the ex-Defence Minister who is famous for his opposition to current Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Okruashvili, the founder of opposition party Movement for United Georgia, was declared wanted in Georgia after his statement accusing President Saakashvili of corruption, murder and other crimes. Last March he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in absentia by a Georgian court for “large-scale extortion.” He was subsequently granted political asylum in France.

On Public TV’s popular talk show Political Week on March 8, Eka Beselia, one of the leaders of Okruashvili’s party, said that rather than her, the ex-Minister should have participated in the programme through live satellite link from France; however this did not happen “because of Government pressure.” She pressed the host of the programme, Inga Grigolia, to give a guarantee that Okruashvili would be interviewed on the programme in future. Grigolia confirmed that she had had consultations with Okruashvili over his participation in her programme by video bridge, but denied there had been any pressure applied by the Government.

The management of Public Broadcasting has published a statement explaining Grigolia’s refusal to give a guarantee that Okruashvili would be interviewed. “The GPB believes it is a violation of internationally recognized standards to allocate live air time to convicts who are wanted by Georgian law enforcers,” says the statement, published on March 10. The administration of the channel categorically denies receiving any pressure from the Government, stating that the channel “defines its own editorial policy” and “categorically objects to any attempts to pressure the channel, and especially to such harsh attempts as we witnessed from Beselia in this case.”

“The Georgian Public Broadcaster will not become a weapon of propaganda in the hands of any political party, and will solely and independently make decisions on the format and editorial content of its TV programmes,” concludes the statement.