The scandal with Georgia’s TV channel Imedi, which aired a report on March 13th about Russia’s “military incursion” and the killing of President Mikhail Saakashvili, continues to develop. New agencies exposed a telephone conversation, which shed some light on how the notorious report appeared.
The male voice in the audio recording is very similar to that of Imedi’s CEO Georgy Arveladze. He talks to a woman, whose voice sounds like the voice of Ekaterina Tsamalashvili, the host of the infamous news program.
The woman says that the edited report looks very plausible. She said that the people would most likely believe that Russian tanks were approaching Tbilisi. The man responds positively: “That’s the way it should be.”
The woman then warns that the deceitful report contradicts to the broadcasting code, and that it would be reasonable to display subtitles to say that it was only a staged report. “The code clearly says that creating ungrounded panic in the society and the things that we are doing – they ruin the license. I’m warning you. We’d better write that it is a screen version, and no one will call it into dispute. They can sue us afterwards otherwise,” the woman said.
The male voice continues:
“Misha [probably President Mikhail Saakashvili] spoke to me yesterday. He asked me what we were doing, and I told him that we were doing that report. He asked if it was going to be like a conventional news report and I said yes. I also told him that we were going to make a warning about the screen version, but he said not to do it for it would destroy the flavor.”
The real Georgy Arveladze later rejected the authenticity of the audio recording.
“I don’t know which conversation was recorded. It was a fabrication of different phone conversations that I had – that’s a fact. All phrases were picked from different calls. One can make any kind of phone conversation with anyone for me,” he said.
“Everyone at our company who watched the previews of the report were aware of the news program. He consulted several political experts when the report was in the making. The experts only saw the scenario, not the news show. No one from the authorities took part in the making,” he added.
Mr. Arveladze did not miss a chance to slam Russia in his comments.
“The phone conversation was a provocation from Russian special services. They could have me talking with the Pope or Dalai Lama over the phone. We did not intend to intimidate the public. We wanted to show the dangers, which our country was facing,” he said.
As a result, Georgia’s National Committee for Communications did not withdraw the license from Imedi TV channel.
Manana Manjgaladze, the press secretary of the Georgian president, also said that the audio recording was fake.
“The accusations against the president are absurd. If one thinks logically, the TV report caused biggest damage to the authorities, first and foremost. The report was edited in violation of the norms and standards of ethics of journalism. The president urged journalists to be more responsible for their work and professional standards,” the official said.
Nino Burjanadze, the former chairwoman of the Georgian parliament, currently the leader of a local opposition movement, questioned Mr. Arveladze’s sincerity.
“Georgy was being very nervous when he was explaining himself. I know him very well. His voice was trembling, which is not surprising at all. I became even more certain of the fact that the recording was genuine,” she said.
Burjanadze added that the tape should be analyzed by either European or American specialists.
Andrey Nesterenko, an official spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, stated that Imedi’s provocative action was utterly irresponsible and immoral.
“It is easy to understand the protests, which the news report caused in the country. Many Georgians believe that the provocation, which Imedi aired, was authorized by the nation’s administration. The president of Georgia does not conceal his favorable attitude to the scandalous program, the scenario of which was very close to reality, as he said,” the Russian diplomat stated.
“The provocative TV show caused serious damage to security and stability in the region. We hope that the European observers, who work in Georgia, and the whole international community will come to the right conclusion about it. The political paranoia has never brought any good and has never solved any serious problems in any country,” Nesterenko added.
Russia found many supporters in the West in this latest Georgian scandal. It does not happen very often, but Imedi’s program was just the case. US and French politicians stated that it was a very strange and inappropriate initiative.
The Georgian administration has created another big problem for its reputation.