Georgian opposition TV shut again: 'We fear for our lives'

The Georgian opposition TV channel Imedi has announced it will temporarily cease broadcasting. The journalists working there say their safety has not been guaranteed.

Just two weeks after returning to the airwaves, Imedi TV decided to cease transmission in protest at pressure from the government, as well as from the station's owner, presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili.

Presenter Georgy Targamadze said staff at the station decided they couldn't go on.

 “The media controlled by the governement has created an atmosphere of hysteria. We are temporarily stopping broadcasting until the turmoil around the station calms down and until the status of the new owner is fixed,” Targamadze said.

Imedi journalist Merab Metreveli said “the methods by which Badri Patarkatsishvili tried to come to power are absolutely unacceptable for us”.

The announcement comes a day after Georgian police released evidence that it says shows Patarkatsishvili was planning a coup in the days following the January 5 presidential election.

A secretly taped conversation between a top Interior Ministry official and Patarkatsishvili appears to show the latter discussing plans to stage mass unrest after the vote.

On Wednesday, six leading Imedi journalists resigned in an emotional live press conference.

The government has called for the station to be fully taken over by its co-owners, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

“It is up to News Corp and Patarkatsishvili to decide who will own the channel, but there's a possibility that the News Corporation will refuse to have anything to do with the channel: this is an extraordinary situation,” Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said.

In the fall out from the coup allegations, Imedi's remaining staff has also called on Patarkatsishvili to give up his stake in the channel. They say if this happens, they could be back on air shortly after the New Year.