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Georgia26 May 2009

Authorities urged not to rule out political motive in grenade attack on TV station

Reporters Without Borders condemns a hand grenade attack on opposition television station Maestro TV in the early hours of yesterday in Tbilisi as the political debate programme “Camera 5” was being broadcast live. The explosion damaged the entrance and blew out windows but caused no injuries.

“Any use of such methods to intimidate news media is deplorable and particularly suspect when opposition media are targeted,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Coming at time of acute political tension and on the eve of Georgia’s Independence Day, this kind of incident could tip the political debate into violence. We urge all political players to act with restraint.”

The press freedom organisation added : “The authorities must order an appropriate investigation into this attack. Ruling out the possibility of a political motive is premature.”

Maestro TV owner Mamuka Glonti gave a news conference yesterday in which he deplored the failure of the police to come to the TV station immediately after the bombing. He said the municipal police took more than an hour to arrive and the criminal investigation department took two hours.

Parliamentary speaker David Bakradze, a supporter of President Mikhail Saakashvili, called the explosion "alarming" in an interview for Rustavi 2 television but insisted it was not related to political developments. The authorities said it would be investigated thoroughly.

Several well-known opposition figures were on the “Camera 5” set when the grenade exploded. They included the programme’s presenter, poet and singer Georgy Gachechiladze, brother of Levan Gachechiladze, one of the leaders of the opposition to President Saakashvili.

The opposition have been staging constant demonstrations in Tbilisi for the past six weeks to demand President Saakashvili’s resignation. Saakashvili was swept to power by the 2003 “Rose Revolution.”

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