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Standoff at Maestro Continues but Negotiations Launched

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, December 2
The situation still remains strained and unclear regarding Maestro TV. The founders of the TV channel and the chair of the station's management company did not leave the channel's building the whole night.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who invaded the building on November 30 with accusations that his rights were not protected and that Maesto had “lost its impartiality", called upon the founders to leave the building of the television and launch negotiations with the participation of mediators, including non-governmental organizations, on December 1. Ootherwise, Kitsmarishvili threatened to use all legal means to oust the founders from the office and resume normal broadcast of the television. His opponent, one of the founders of the company Mamuka Ghlonti, accuses Kitsmarishvili of threatening violence. “Let’s move the dispute to any other place away from the territory of the television; they should go out and sit at the negotiating table in which the representatives of civil society as a mediator will also participate. If they refuse, we’ll use all legal means and resume full broadcasts of the company. We`ll force them out and let the journalists return to a normal state of work,” Kitsmarishvili said.

A more negative tone was used regarding Ghlonti. Kitsmarishvili demanded Ghlonti lo leave the channel's building, otherwise, he would not agree to negotiations. In his turn, Ghlonti called on police to make Kitsmarishvili get out of the Maestro TV building. “Erosi Kitsmarishvili has threatened journalists. He said he would use force and make me leave the building.”

Some time later one of the founders of the TV channel, Levan Chikvaidze, stated that the negotiations have been launched between Kitsmarishvili and the founders, however he admitted that it will not be an easy process and that the issue has not been solved yet, ”we have agreed to bring in a mediator as an observer during the process may be it will be the from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association. We have also agreed that both sides have shortcomings and that negotiations should be held out of the channel building.” He also mentioned that in case of agreement being reached between the sides there will be no need to appeal to court.

The staff of the company welcomed the start of negotiations and stated that Kitsmarishvili should leave the channel's building area to enable the journalists to fulfil their work accordingly.

The events were followed by politicians of all stripes. A special address was made by Georgian billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose name is actively linked to the issue. Ivanishvili addressed employees of the Maestro TV Company saying that he was carefully watching the developments around the TV network and “I can see how the government is trying to destroy the remnants of free speech. I think the government decided to carry out mass attack on media.”

According to the address, the government will not be able to destroy the journalists’ adherence to free speech and professional dignity.

“I made the greatest mistake in my life when I believed in the government’s liberal and democratic rhetoric and shut down the 9th TV Channel. Thus, I unwillingly promoted the destruction of the media. I’m sure you will win, despite the government’s efforts to escalate the situation. Be calm, and be aware that we are all proud of you. People like you create a better future,” Ivanishvili said.

In response, Kitsmarishvili said that Ivanishvili had no right to talk about Maestro-related issues, “If, I, who put all my knowledge and money into Maestro, have no right to talk about the media, why does Ivanishvili give himself the right to do this?” he asked.

Statements were also made by majority representatives, who excluded government involvement or any role in the ongoing issues and underlined that there are some forces in the country who blame the authorities over any negative issue. They also mentioned that this is an inner conflict and misunderstanding. As for the authorities position, they hope that the conflict will be soon settled.

Analyst Gia Khukhashvili directly linked the Maestro issues to authorities’ intentions, meaning a massive attack on media and restriction of free TV viewing, “in this situation Kitsmarishvili is just an instrument for the authorities to block Maestro TV. The situation is developing quite dramatically,” Khukhashvili told The Messenger.