Rustavi 2 Case: Situation Getting Tensed
The recordings were released against the background of the ongoing high-profile court battle over Rustavi 2 TV ownership, and after the Georgian State Security Service had announced on Saturday about launching the investigation into conspiracy to overthrow the government.
The phone conversation was held via Viber. Two recordings were released. One of them is a conversation between Saakashvili and Rustavi 2 Director General, Nika Gvaramia, and the other one – between the ex-President and the United National Movement individual leader, Giga Bokeria. The phone conversation was published on the Ukrainian http://uareview.in.ua
What are the recordings about?
In the tapped recording of the conversation between Saakashvili and Gvaramia, which apparently took place on 19 October, the ex-president tells Rustavi 2 TV director that the judge, adjudicating broadcaster ownership dispute, would rule against Rustavi 2 TV and would “definitely order immediate execution of the ruling.
When Gvaramia asked, how he foresaw the development of the situation after this decision, Saakashvili answered: ‘You should follow the revolutionary scenario’.
‘You should call on people to defend Rustavi 2, to be strong, to make barricades …erect huge barricades around, you should start preparing right now; bring metal barriers and arrange a fortress there…,get supplies of water and other stuffs…this should be an ordinary standoff [confrontation] lasting for weeks… the next scenario will be seizure [of Rustavi 2 TV] on 22nd [October]. You should not let this seizure happen. We can always gather 1,000-1,500 men to reinforce it; if you manage to stand firmly for a week, that’s it, it will get very complicated for them. Get some boeviks (militants), who will defend it, because eventually it will definitely end up with shooting, says Saakashvili.
In the second phone conversation, Saakashvili tells Bokeria that ‘from tomorrow, Gvaramia will start constructing metal structures, he will erect many barricades… with its defence, reinforcement, boeviks, so that they could not burst in without shooting.’
Bokeria tells Saakashvili that Gvaramia does not have any boeviks (militants). Saakashvili answers that ‘the party should bring them’.
‘Physical confrontation is necessary now. We should show them that we can do that – if not, we are worth of nothing. Otherwise, we will not be able to draw attention, – Saakashvili tells Bokeria.
‘Faces should be smashed and if they open fire, let them shoot. What should we do, – Saakashvili says at the end of the record.
Gvaramia and Bokeria confirmed the authenticity of these conversations.
Gvaramia claimed, Saakashvili was his close friend, but he did not always follow his advice. Whereas Bokeria said, Saakashvili had been discussing how to oppose them, if they attempted to seize Rustavi 2 by force.
Both of them stressed that ‘illegal tapping’ was still the case in the country.
Mikheil Saakashvili also made a comment. He also confirmed the authenticity of the recording and claimed that “nobody should be surprised about my call for struggle to protect media freedom in Georgia.
The state security service has already launched an investigation into the secret recordings. Nika Gvaramia and Giga Bokeria were summoned for interrogation a few hours after release of the tapped recordings.
In parallel, Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, also released a statement, saying a procedure for termination of ex-President, Mikhail Saakashvili’s Georgian citizenship had been launched.
Premier Irakli Gharibashvili made a statement in connection with the audio recordings, terming them as ‘action and provocation against the state’ ‘I would like to calm down the population – we maintain full control over the situation… the state and personally declare that we assume the responsibility for and guarantee that security of each and every citizen will be protected, Gharibashvili stated. Prime Minister claimed that those, who tried to organize provocations against the state would to be strictly punished.
The Prime Minister also appealed to the journalists. He advised the representatives of Mass Media, ‘to think carefully in order not to be used for implementation of narrow political interests’ and not to become unwitting accomplice to the possible coup.
Rustavi 2 TV Staff’s Reaction
Rustavi 2 TV supporters were planning to gather outside the broadcaster’s building on 30 October, to protest against criminal proceedings instituted against the TV channel and the authorities’ pressure on the court. However, in order to prevent provocations, Gvaramia called on the supporters to refrain from gathering outside the TV channel’s building.
‘With the aim to defuse the situation, we do not call on anyone to come and defend us. If it becomes necessary to defend the TV company, we will do it ourselves. And if anyone shoots, I hope that this is not going to happen, let them shoot at us,’- said Gvaramia. He also stressed he had not followed Saakashvili’s advice and that was obvious, since no barricades had been erected outside the TV company building.
After release of the audio recordings, Rustavi 2 TV journalists also made a statement. “We strongly distance ourselves from any type of violent scenario of developments. Our editorial policy is not related to any of the political party’s goals; our goal is to perform journalistic duties…, reads the statement.
Rustavi 2 TV Director General, Nika Gvaramia said, Rustavi 2 TV was not, even for a moment, thinking of any kind of revolutionary scenarios.’ He claims that if there are any provocations outside Rustavi 2 TV, the government will bear responsibility for that.
Illegal Tapping and Blackmailing
There is another important aspect in this story, that the non-governmental organizations are focusing on – the legitimacy of the recordings, released by the Ukrainian web-site.
Moreover, the interesting fact is that TV company’s Director General, Nika Gvaramia, made a statement live on air of Rustavi 2 TV last week, saying the authorities threatened to disclose secretly-recorded videos showing what he described as his ‘private life’ in an attempt to force him to resign.
According to Ana Natsvlishvili, the Head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) NGO, the phone conversation recordings, released by the Ukrainian web-site, prove that Nika Gvaramia was really blackmailed.
‘The released recordings, on the one hand, confirm that Gvaramia was really under pressure, since publication of these recordings was part of this intimidation. Therefore, it is important to establish the legitimacy of these recordings,’ – Ana Natsvlishvili explained.
Rustavi 2 TV Trial
The court hearing, that was initially scheduled for 30 October, has been postponed till 2 November. The judge is most likely to deliver the final verdict next week. In case, the TV company ex-owner Kibar Khalvashi’s claim is sustained, experts do not rule out further escalation of the situation.