Georgia: banned TV station to broadcast again
Technical experts are working at Imedi, preparing the channel for its return to the airwaves.
Meanwhile, Imedi's executive director, Bigzina Baratashvili, says their studio suffered technical damage during a police raid.
“We have already checked the control room. Posts there are absolutely destroyed, some laptops are stolen. All hard disks in the control room are gone, as well as a lot of monitors,” he said.
The decision to allow Imedi's reopening comes after talks between the government and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which co-owns the channel with Badri Patarkatsishvili, billionaire tycoon and presidential hopeful.
The authorities want News Corporation to take over 100% of Imedi's shares, prompting fears from some staff members that the government wants to control the channel.
“I have information that governmental circles were discussing this. As far as I know they were turned down by Patarkatsishvili. He refused to sell them his shares. Now they are working on different schemes,” said Giorgi Targamadze, the head of news programmes at Imedi.
The government dismisses these allegations, saying that the decision to allow the reopening of Imedi proves their commitment to media freedom.
“I think these are rumours. The process of negotiations is very positive, and our society both inside the country and outside of the country will have this information very soon. Imedi will be open,” said government spokesman Gigi Tsereteli MP.
Imedi was taken off the air after being raided by Special Forces on November 7, following a day of violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the streets of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
The authorities say Imedi was calling for the violent overthrow of the government on behalf of Badri Patarkatsishvili, and that the decision to close Imedi was justified.
Imedi's management say they hope the station will be more balanced when it returns to the airwaves.
“I think that the only possible change will be if the government returns to our channel and if they don't boycott our political talk shows. In this case we'll have two sides and our political shows will be more balanced,” explained Bidzina Baratashvili, Imedi's Managing Director.