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Maestro TV Remains in Paralysis

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, December 7
It is considered in Georgia that Maestro TV together with Kavkasia TV are the two independent TV stations that transmit unbiased and impartial information. As the popular saying has it, the media is the watchdog of democracy. From this perspective, Maestro has been a democratic beacon in Georgia for the past several years.

Officials in Georgia consider the channel to be pro opposition and it is true that Maestro is critical of the government. But such criticism has become such a rarity that the channel's output became highly valued for offering the other side of the argument. For a week now however the station has been partially paralyzed. The channel is being transmitted not from an ordinary TV studio but from the Maestro radio station and the journalists and the working personnel are in a great deal of discomfort.

What has happened at Maestro? Everything started in the early morning of November 30 when the head of the managing company of Maestro, Erosi Kitsmarishvili climbed over the fence of the TV building together with his supporters, unidentified persons of tough physical appearance, and occupied the ground floor of the Maestro studio building. Employees on duty were on the first and second floor of the building. The Director General of Maestro TV telephoned and asked the police to interfere and take the intruders out of the building. The police appeared, blocked the entry to the building not letting anybody in or out including journalists and the general director himself who was the one who had asked the police to interfere. Slowly the situation developed and the sides confronted each other, the owners of Maestro on one side and the managing company with which Maestro had contracted with for one more year on the other side. Kitsmarishvili claims that he manages Maestro and has accumulated and spent USD 4.5 mln. Due to this, he is adamant that he will not give up his duties and will free the TV station of people who do not work properly and who diverge from the managing company's policy. According to Kitsmarishvili the owners of Maestro TV have been conducting negotiations with the billionaire turned politician Bidzina Ivanishvili to receive money from him behind Kitsmarishvili’s back. The owners meanwhile whose spokesman in the dispute is Mamuka Glonti do not deny that a certain deal with Ivanishvili's people had been struck though this was explained by the fact that Kitsmarishvili had not worked efficiently and had not fulfilled his promises. One of the TV company's owners, Maka Asatiani, claims Kitsmarishvili misappropriated around half a million USD. Kitsmarishvili, for his part, refutes the allegations calling them absurd. Luckily the conflict has changed from physical confrontation to legal claims and now both sides are compiling law suits against each other.

As of today, Kitsmarishvili and his people occupy the original studio of Maestro and are trying to start transmission. The Maestro team has moved into the Maestro radio studio and are transmitting with difficulty its programs. The ruling administration of the country is secretly rubbing its hands in glee. Once again, the opposition has proved inconsistent instead of constructive, creating mass disorder and the paralysis of their own work. According to the government, even opposition leader Ivanishvili did not manage to resolve the situation but rather, on the contrary, made it worse. The opposition meanwhile accuses Kitsmarishvili of playing along with the government. It claims that with Ivanishvili appearing in the political arena, Kitsmarishvili was pushed out and he decided to take his revenge and went over to the side of the ruling authorities.

At the moment it is absolutely unclear what the situation is in reality. Legal procedures have just begun. But one thing is clear, the ruling administration has mostly benefited from the current situation and the opposition meanwhile has been put once again in an awkward situation. What exactly were Kitsmarishvili's motivations for such rabble-rousing and belligerent acts in occupying the building? Why, if he truly has the interests of the TV station and its profitability at heart, create such a messy spectacle when he could have called his adversaries around the negotiating table or taken them straight to court? The whole debacle appears contrived to do maximum damage to the main mouthpiece of the opposition-supporting media. Kitsmarishvili has some questions to answer.