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TV station rocked by explosion

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, May 27
An explosion occurred near the Maestro TV Company on May 25. According to the Interior Ministry it took place at 3 am, and although no one was injured, windows in the building were smashed and the entrance door and the computers inside damaged.

It has been reported that someone threw a hand grenade into the courtyard of the TV company’s headquarters as the popular political reality show Cell Number 5 finished. Company staff say that the incident must have been an attempt to intimidate them before a documentary on the high-profile murder of Sandro Girgvliani was aired. They also complain that the police only appeared at the scene about 45 minutes after the incident took place. The Ministry of Internal Affairs states it has requested that Maestro provide law enforcement agencies with footage from the CCTV cameras installed outside the building, but the company says that such video records do not exist.

General Director of Maestro Mamuka Ghlonti has described the incident as a terrorist act. He stated at a press conference yesterday that a hand grenade had been thrown outside the front door of the station yesterday between 3 and 3:05 a.m, and that if the door had been opened there would have been injuries. He also stated that a representative of the Public Defender’s office had run to Tsereteli Avenue in 20 minutes and asked the patrol police to help, but they simply got in their car and drove away. He said that the patrol police finally arrived at Maestro an hour later and the criminal investigation service two hours later.

“There may be numerous reasons why this happened. A terrorist act against an independent television station may be profitable to many sides, but law enforcers didn’t pay the necessary attention to it,” Mamuka Ghlonti stated, asking the patrol police, “Aren’t you ashamed that you left young journalists without help?”

Ghlonti stated that the hand grenade was thrown from outside the building and confirmed that the incident may be linked to the documentary. “The film shows how the murderers of Girgvliani live in prison, how they rest comfortably there,” Ghlonti explained.

Shortly after the incident Public Defender Sozar Subari released a special statement strongly condemning the attack on Maestro. “Throwing bombs at TV channels is not only criminal but an attempt to threaten freedom of speech which creates dangers for our country’s development,” Subari said. The Ombudsman demanded an immediate police investigation and highlighted that the country must not become accustomed to such behaviour and should not allow the beating of journalists, cracking down on TV companies and the restriction of freedom of speech.

Subsequently Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze promised that he would personally oversee a fair investigation into the incident. Despite opposition speculation that the authorities were behind the attack, Bakradze is sure that the incident had nothing to do with politics. “I will personally control that investigation to ensure it is carried out quickly,” he said, adding that the guilty parties must be punished.

Maestro TV is considered to be pro-opposition. The channel became popular after it aired the reality show Cell Number 5, starring opposition activist Gia Gachechiladze, known as ‘Utsnobi’ [unknown], as a man who has voluntarily imprisoned himself in the station, saying that the whole country is like a prison under the present Government.

All media outlets strongly condemned this grenade-throwing incident immediately. We join them in condemning any kind of attack on journalists and showing solidarity with our colleagues.