New Victim of the New Power: “Georgian Times” Threatened with Shutdown
After the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia, it has been common to cancel television programs, newspapers and popular talk-shows for ungrounded reasons. During last 2 months, over 7 newspapers have been shut down all over the republic. And now, the Georgian-language “Georgian Times” is under threat of being closed.
On July 14, the Financial Police raided the office of “ The Georgian Times” and stopped the operation of the newspaper for 10 hours. According to the chairpersons of the newspaper, individuals in power are trying to paralyze “Georgian Times” and declare that this is a personal attack on the newspaper, which refuses to tolerate the rampant corruption. The company intends to bring a lawsuit against the Financial Police, as the representatives of the Financial Police without a corresponding court warrant, raided and confiscated the financial documentation of the newspaper. “This is a crime,” stated the lawyer for the newspaper, Eka Beselia. “We are going to file a lawsuit against the Financial Police for humiliation of reputation and honor of the newspaper and demand moral compensation.”
According to the representatives of “The Georgian Times,” the investigation, conducted by the Financial Police, was ordered by Valeri Grigalashvili, the General Procurator of Tbilisi. The incident was preceded by a series of articles published in the newspaper during a month period. The journalistic investigation included compromising materials about Valeri Grigalashvili, revealing him as engaged in anti-constitutional and illegal activities. The last publication before the raid highlighted the professional activity of the Tbilisi Procurator and in an interview, Lordi Lebanidze, the former procurator, blamed Valeri Grigalashvili for corruption and demanded he be held liable for criminal activity. According to the statement of Malkhaz Gulashvili, the leader of Media Holding, Valeri Grigalashvili, the General Prosecutor had threatened to shutdown the paper. The threats were made personally against him and his wife Nana Gagua, who is the editor of “The Georgian Times.” The statements informed them that they would be detained and the newspaper would be closed. “During the former government we had more problems, but there were only threats, that had not been implemented. But, since the new government came to power, 7 newspapers, 2 TV Channels and popular talk-shows have been shutdown. We classify this as a pressure on media and restriction of freedom of speech. But I can’t blame exactly the central government in it - the president or the prime-minister. Responsibility for this situation should be undertaken by the procurator of Tbilisi,” noted the executive of “Georgian Times.”
The representatives of Financial Police stated that they had information about illegal financial operations regarding tax payments, which was the reason for searching the headquarters of the newspaper. The Financial Police confiscated some documents and sent them to the court, notwithstanding the fact that they had not found any illegal or compromising documents.
Media Holding Georgian Times was founded in 1993. It’s a member of the World Press Association, which is the largest union in the world and prints about 900 publications and includes 22 thousand newspapers as members. The newspaper is not only in the Georgian language, but also is published in English and is dissaminated in Armenia and Azerbaijan as well. Media Holding also has a web site at http://www.geotimes.ge/