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Fake TV Report-Related Phone Recording Examined

April 28, 2010
A recorded phone conversation, implicating President Saakashvili of being behind Imedi TV’s fake news broadcast on renewed war, is genuine, although it may have been tampered through deletion of some parts of the conversation, according to findings of examination by London-based business intelligence and corporate investigations firm GPW.

GPW was commissioned by Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, which is part of opposition Alliance for Georgia, to ascertain the veracity of the recorded phone conversation between Imedi TV’s managing director Giorgi Arveladze and his deputy Eka Tsamalashvili. The audio recording of conversation, which supposedly was held before the fake report was aired, was posted on a Russian-language website on March 15 – two days after Imedi TV’s fake report was aired.

Both Arveladze and Tsamalashvili acknowledged that their voices were heard in the recorded conversation, but they claimed that it was a fabrication. Both have said that the recording was made through montage and compilation of their previous, several separate conversations and presented in a manner so that to implicate President Saakashvili to having links with the fake report. Arveladze said that it was made by the Russian special services at a sensitive political period so that to fuel up anti-government sentiments in the country. Lawmakers from the ruling party adhered to the same position, rejecting calls for a parliamentary probe.

The report, which was presented by Alliance for Georgia on April 26 (available on a website of the New Rights Party), says that for linguistic forensic examination of the recording GPW hired Isabel Picornell, a certified fraud examiner, and Donald Rayfield, Professor Emeritus of Russian and Georgian studies at Queen Mary College in London.
“Picornell and Rayfield have concluded that the conversation is genuine. The overall lexical linking is consistent with a single conversation and both experts have discounted claims that the recording is a montage,” the report reads.

It, however, also says that there are inconsistencies in the recorded conversation suggesting that the recording may have been tampered. “These inconsistencies may point to a deletion of parts of the recording, but there is no evidence of insertions or additions,” it says.
The experts, according to the report, noted that “the inconsistencies all occur during the part of the conversation where Mikheil Saakashvili is referenced.”

In the conversation Arveladze mentions “Misha” - a short form for the name Mikheil, as President Saakashvili is usually referred to – twice. He tells his interlocutor that it was “Misha” who wanted the fake report to be aired without any warning to viewers.

Arveladze brings up “Misha” after his deputy Tsamalashvili warns her boss that airing the fake report without warning would result into violation of the law on broadcasting.
“Both Picornell and Rayfield believe that the conversation is genuine although inconsistencies might point to interferences with the recording. However, as Rayfield has stated, even these inconsistencies can be explained without compromising the integrity of the recording,” the report says.

The report focuses on the linguistic forensic examination of the recording, rather than on technical aspects; it, however, says that experts from London-based firm, BSB Forensics, examined the technical content of the recording in which each speaker is recorded on a separate channel.

“This and other technical factors strongly indicate that the recording was an intercept made at a main exchange,” the report reads without giving details of “other technical factors”.

During the presentation of the report in Tbilisi, leaders from Alliance for Georgia told reporters on April 26, that the Georgian prosecutor’s office should launch an investigation into the case.

Davit Usupashvili, leader of Republican Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, said that Arveladze violated number of clauses of criminal code, in particular through obstructing professional activities of a journalist; obstruction to entrepreneurship and illegal activity in entrepreneurship. Usupashvili has claimed that Arveladze, despite knowing that airing of fake report without warning caption would have been a violation of law and would have been harmed Imedi television stations, was still insisting on doing that.

He also said that the case also involved violation of constitutional clauses on the part of President Saakashvili. He said that Saakashvili violated the constitutional provision, which says that “interference in creative process, censorship in the field of creative activity shall be impermissible”; as well as the provision saying that “mass media shall be free; the censorship shall be impermissible.”

“We should take the responsibility and undertake concrete legal actions… so that to bring this case to its end,” said Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, who is running for Tbilisi mayor.

“This fake broadcast has traumatized the society; it was a psychological trauma… Taking actions and bringing this case to its end is a matter of our national dignity,” he said