Ninety organisations in Georgia left without a roof

More than 90 organisations in Georgia are out on the street, as the government sells the state-owned building which housed them. A small independent channel known for its anti-government line also turned out to be one of the squatters.

The actions of the government have led to a mass protest.

As of Friday, Georgia's Kavkasia TV is homeless. The small channel, which broadcasted to the Tbilisi area and was known for its strongly anti-government line, had its offices in a state-owned building which also housed 12 newspapers and scores of small businesses. The building is to be sold in Georgia's privatisation drive.

“I have no idea where to take my equipment, where to broadcast from, I'll probably have to take it home. This is not only pressure on the mass media, it is spitting in the face of ordinary people. I couldn't have imagined such cynicism and disrespect for the law,” Nino Jangirashvili, News Director, Kavkasia TV, said.

Employees were greeted by a police line when they arrived at work on Monday, and told they had until the end of the day to clear the premises. Representatives of the channel called the eviction government pressure on the media.

Employees of the organisations housed in the building took to the street to protest the eviction. They were soon joined by representatives of some opposition groups, who used the opportunity to confront the government.

“This is a direct declaration of war against the forth estate – the mass media. The government does not want the truth to be broadcast, and does not want independent journalists,” Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Georgian Labour Party, stated.

There has been a spate of protests at the privatisation of buildings in Georgia. Most are initiated by fringe opposition groups and simply shrugged off by the government, which says it is perfectly entitled to evict people it sees as squatters.

“We have repeatedly notified the 90 organisations housed in the building that they are occupying the space illegally. We were asking them to vacate the premises, but they ignored our requests,” Ilia Gotsiridze, Head of Privatisation Department, commented.

The building itself was put up for privatisation a year ago, and carries a price tag of $US 20MLN – a massive sum in Georgia. But critics of privatisation say the government is selling the country's wealth.