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Georgia19 November 2007

Authorities asked to let opposition tv station resume broadcasting

(JPEG) Most of Georgia’s privately-owned TV stations have been able to resume broadcasting normally since the lifting of a state of emergency on 16 November, but a Tbilisi court has suspended broadcasting by Imedi TV, the most popular of Georgia’s three leading independent TV stations, for three months.

Imedi TV fears that it will not be allowed to reopen until 5 January, the day that a presidential election its to be held. Imedi TV’s leading shareholder, Rupert Murdoch’s media group, News Corporation, announced on 15 November that it would challenge the decision.

The grounds given by the court for its decision were statements made by on Imedi TV by the station’s founder, Badri Patarkatsishvili, a businessman now living in London, in which he allegedly called for demonstrations with the aim of precipitating a coup against the government led by President Mikhail Saakashvili.(JPEG) The allegations also refer to press releases in which he said he would use all his money to topple the government, and to a statement on a national radio station that he would do his best “to free the country from a fascist’s yoke.”

“The lifting of the state of emergency has not put an end to a week of censorship of news media, suspension of the right of assembly and suspension of the right to strike and demonstrate,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The evidence against this TV station’s founder, if there is any, must be made public. His declared support for the opposition should not lead to the TV station’s closure.”

According to Imedi TV journalists and European diplomats, the station’s studios and its editing and broadcasting equipment have been badly damaged or removed.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon today stressed that the presence of media that are free and able to operate and respect for free expression would be important if the international community were to regard the presidential election as “credible.”

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