November 14, 2003 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Elections board cancels accreditation of main independent TV station

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today at the decision by Georgia's national elections board to cancel the accreditation of the country's only truly independent TV station, Rustavi 2, and stressed that Georgians needed impartial information during the present serious political disturbances. The press freedom organisation said it was also worried about pressure exerted on the station by the board and by several political parties in connection with the 2 November general elections and the political crisis since then. Nine of the 12 electoral board members reportedly voted on 13 November to cancel Rustavi 2's accreditation for broadcasting a message from the Kmara student movement calling on several board members to stop rigging the election and think of the public. The message warned that they would be arrested and jailed if they persisted. One board member, Givi Komadhidze, demanded on 6 November that the station stop airing the message, noting that Kmara was founded by Zurab Zhvania, leader of the opposition Democrats' Union, and said the accompanying pictures threatened members of the electoral board. He said he would ask the board to cancel the station's accreditation if it continued to broadcast the message. The board's chairwoman, Nana Devdariani, said however that the board had no right to decide what a TV station could or could not broadcast. Three political groups - the Renewal Party, the Industrialists' Party and the Labour Party - charged on 10 November that Rustavi 2 was responsible for the current political crisis and said they would boycott its journalists. The same day, Rustavi 2 journalist Guram Donadze was set upon by a member of the pro-government coalition, For a New Georgia, as he was trying to find out who President Edvard Shevardnadze was planning to meet at Tbilisi airport. Twelve days after the elections, final official results have not yet been announced by the elections board and thousands of people have demonstrated in support of opposition claims of fraud and demanding Shevardnadze's resignation. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on 3 November that the election was marred by many irregularities.