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Now NATO and US attack Imedi hoax

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, March 26
NATO and the United States Government have responded to the controversial Imedi TV fake programme broadcast on March 13, RIA Novosti reported on March 24. The agency said both the Alliance and the United States Government have assessed the programme negatively.

The programme was a simulation of what it said might happen on June 7 2010. It portrayed the Georgian opposition being defeated in the local government elections and then calling a general strike, which gave the Russian Government a pretext to invade Georgia. It also said that President Saakashvili had been killed. The programme caused real panic in Georgia and was condemned by members of the public, the opposition and the Government, although the opposition maintain that the programme was made on the orders of the Georgian Government.

“From NATO`s point of view this hoax television broadcast was unwise, unhelpful and, let’s say, not seen positively within NATO,” official representative of NATO James Appathurai stated in the interview published by RIA Novosti on March 24. On the same day RIA Novosti also published leading US intelligence figure Matthew Barrow’s comment that he did not have full information on the programme’s content, but "such kinds of reports are very dangerous as they can cause conflicts not only on the screen but in real life too.”

Members of the Council of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics in Georgia held a meeting on March 25, in which they discussed ethical norms in the Georgian media within the framework of the charter. Natia Koberidze, an Imedi TV journalist who narrated part of the controversial programme, was due to attend this meeting but withdrew at the last moment.

"I was ready to attend the meeting, but I heard that its format is public, and some Council members said that this meeting would be a perfect means of attacking me, and I am not going to meet some of my more unconstructive colleagues,” Koberidze said. However Council head Eter Turadze said that even at the beginning of the meeting it was said that the meeting was not being held to punish anybody. "Our aim is not to punish any journalist, although sanctions by the Council might be considered if the members believer someone has broken ethical norms. Journalists are generally dependent on the attitude of the public, if the public loses trust in some journalist this would be the greatest punishment and sanction for him. The aim of the meeting is to call on journalists to act according to ethical norms,” Turadze said.

After announcing that Koberidze would not be attending the meeting the Council sent her 16 questions concerning the fake programme via the internet. Among other things it asked who decided that the programme should be broadcast without a visible warning that it was a simulation, whether pressure had been put on her or not, when she saw the final version of the programme. In a written response Koberidze stated that she did not violate the charter as in the advertisement for the programme and when it began she warned viewers that it was a simulation of possible future threats. She said that she had no information about why a warning that the programme was a simulation were not displayed throughout and the programme’s authors were responsible for this, not her.