Georgia vows to end ban on opposition media

The Georgian government says independent TV channels will be allowed to broadcast again in early December. The announcement came during a visit to the country by an EU official.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, said the closing of Imedi – an opposition-backed media group – went against the principles of press freedom.

Haraszti said he saw a 'readiness' on the part of the Tbilisi government to let the TV station back on air. 

The channel stopped broadcasting after being raided by police on 7 November. Its licence was revoked. The channel had been covering the violent dispersal of protest rallies in Georgia's capital Tbilisi that day.

Imedi aired a statement from its co-owner, billionaire tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, saying he would devote his last cent to ousting president Saakashvili.

The authorities said that amounted to an coup attempt, and therefore closed the channel.  

Deputy Prosecutor General Nika Gvaramia said he regretted that Imedi journalists were caught up in a political battle.

“The government should have done more to open their eyes, to show them they were being manipulated for certain people's political goals,” Gvaramia said.

The closure of Imedi prompted an international outcry, with the US and EU sending mediators to help resolve the issue.

Observers said the channel should be put back on air to ensure balanced coverage of the election campaign in the run-up to the January 5 presidential poll.

Imedi employees say they hope the reopened channel remains the same channel it was before.