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Georgia19 March 2009

Appointment of new head of news exacerbates situation at Imedi TV

Reporters Without Borders is puzzled and concerned by Nana Intskirveli’s appointment on 17 March as head of news at the privately-owned TV station Imedi. Until a few days ago, Intskirveli had been head of the press department and spokesperson at the defence ministry, a post she had held since 2005.

“The appointment of the head of the defence ministry’s press department to a position of responsibility for an independent TV station’s news content appears to be an incomprehensible strategic error,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It will inevitably be seen a further affirmation of the government’s desire to control Imedi’s editorial content.”

Intskirveli worked as a journalist for the independent TV station Rustavi 2 before being appointed defence ministry spokesperson in 2005.

Long the country’s most popular privately-owned TV station, Imedi was stripped of its licence during a state of emergency in November 2007, remaining off the air for 34 days. Its studios were ransacked and badly damaged and much of its equipment was destroyed during the period of suspension.

The death of Imedi’s co-owner, billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, in February 2008 set off a fight for control of the TV station. The overwhelming majority of its shares are currently held by Ras Al Khaimah, one of the United Arab Emirates, and Joseph Kay, a distant relative of Patarkatsishvili.

Georgia was ranked 120th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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