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Motives behind First Stereo blockage

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, May 21
Davit Zilphimiani founder of the TV Company First Stereo and Stereo Plus accused his partner of illegally dismissing him from his position as director. Zilphimiani said he found himself removed from the director’s position at the Civil Registry Agency’s web page at partnership meeting on May 18.

Zilphimiani who was going to continue scientific activities at NASA located in the state of Maryland in the United States, said he wouldn’t have been opposed to his dismissal at the partnership meeting. But he said he found the unanimous decision of his partner Vasil Kobaidze “illegal” as his two Italian shareholders were not informed of the changes. Kobaidze’s representative Giorgi Kavlashvili explained that by owning 65% Kobaidze had the absolute right to become the director of the TV Company.

Zilphimiani who owned 22% of shares of the First Stereo and 100% of Stereo Plus had re-registered his property to his son. He had also signed the technical service contract with Ninth Channel which he found irritating to Davit Bezhuashvili who is Kobaidze’s relative. Zilphimiani doubts that it is MP Bezhuashvili who actually stands behind Kobaidze’s decision-making.

Being sued for possible financial damage, Zilphimiani's property was sequestered by the Civil Registry Agency after he had registered Stereo Plus to his son. Being removed from the position of director, Zilpimiani connected the tension with his contract with the Ninth Channel owned by the wife of oppositionist Bidzina Ivanishvili. But as he explained, Stereo Plus is a service company that provides technical assistance to different TV Channels.

The First Stereo TV Company has been broadcasting its musical programs throughout the country since 1997. On May 18, 2012, a private security company occupied the Geophysics Institute where First Stereo has an office. Zilphimiani and his supporters were not allowed to enter the building. Opposed to the sudden changes, First Stereo journalists accused the new director of illegal decision-making and doubted that they would continue working at the company under Kobaidze’s direction.

But as Kavlashvili said, Kobaidze would find ways to regulate relations with the TV staff and continue broadcasting in the old manner.

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) recommended a proper investigation into the case; the public defender’s office is also looking into the situation surrounding the TV Channel.

Media representatives have expressed their solidarity with the company. Worrying that First Stereo had been under pressure for its cooperation with the Ninth Channel, its General Director Kakha Bekauri said the media should be free from political bias.

In their support letter, the Media Union Obieqtivi said that the whole process around the First Stereo Company has been “inspired by the government” in order to “obey” the media-space before the upcoming elections. Saying that “the new [media] owners” usually belong to governmental circles, the Obieqtivi team hoped that the “criminal policy” against the media would be investigated after the withdrawal of the current government.

Media expert Zviad Koridze discouraged the violence against the media and stressed the necessity for uncovering “the real motives of confrontation” behind First Stereo’s case. People working at the TV Company are the victims of the situation and deserve proper explanations, he said.