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Imedi: hope lost

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, March 16
'Imedi' in Georgian means 'hope', but it looks as if any hope in this TV station has finally been lost as it has been transformed into a pro-Government channel. The peak of its infantile management could be said to have been reached on March 13, in the ridiculous "Russian invasion" stunt. However not only Imedi should take the blame for this. Although the Government continually assures us that Imedi and all other media outlets in Georgia are free, it is widely acknowledged by the public that Imedi is a pro-Government channel, which will not address any sensitive topic if the Government does not approve. Therefore the Government as well as the station must be held accountable for the wicked crime which was committed.

Everyone now knows what happened: the pro-Government station wanted to threaten the population with a possible invasion by Russia, which President Saakashvili later commented is a quite realistic scenario. The aim of the simulation, the Imedi management said, was to warn the public not to back those opposition politicians who try to conduct dialogue with Moscow. However if this was so the programme has not had the desired effect: even supporters of the Saakashvili administration and his party members, MPs and other officials were upset, frustrated and concerned. The general population got really angry and a very powerful charge of anti-Government emotion has followed.

Ordinary people are demanding the punishment of the authors of the simulation. This professional carelessness caused the death of at least one person, unofficial sources claim. Even Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II condemned the brutal psychological pressure the TV channel inflicted on the Georgian population in his Sunday service. The Georgian President called it unpleasant, but repeated his favourite theme that there is a real possibility of such developments taking place.

The absurdity of the simulation was aggravated when it stated that President Saakashvili had been assassinated and several Georgian Army units had refused to obey orders and joined the invaders. Broadcasting this programme was a very wicked, cruel, unprofessional and infantile act: the killing of the President, the creating of a 'popular' Government, the concern of the West, the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity under Russian guidance and other details were used to make the simulation appear realistic. Ilia the II reminded his congregation of the Georgian fable in which a shepherd tries to convince the villagers that a wolf is attacking his herd so often that they stop paying attention to him, so when a wolf really came and attacked his herd no one believed the hysterical cries of the shepherd.

The dramatic situation Georgia has fallen into in recent times has created an acute reaction in the population, which has started accusing the present administration of creating it. The authorities have condemned the Imedi show, saying that it should have put a warning notice on the screen saying that the film was a simulation, but the same simulation was also broadcast on radio Imedi, spreading the same misinformation in areas without TV access and to car drivers.

The scandal has been quite beneficial for the opposition, which regards it as yet another demonstration of the irresponsibility and poor governance of the current administration. Some opposition members suggest that the simulation showed how unprotected the country really is from possible threat and how irresponsible the Government which is supposed to deal with that threat is. There are demands that those responsible should be severely punished. But the question which will not go away no matter what is said is: is there still a threat that Russia really will attack Georgia, and if so, how can Georgia prevent this?