When the national television outlets - Imedi TV, Rustavi 2 and the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s Channel 1 - reported about the tragic death of 46-year old Solomon Kimeridze in a police station in the town of Khashuri, one fact was striking: Not only were the images used to cover the case largely identical, but the wording used by news anchors to report the case was almost word by word the same.
The coordinated news coverage is a strong indication for a lack of editorial independence of the country's major broadcasters, including the Georgian Public Broadcaster, when covering politically sensitive issues.
As this popular video on YouTube documents, the narrative national TV provided on the tragic death did not fairly cover the fact that opposition politicians raised questions about the case, alleging that Kimeridze’s death might have been the result of police abuse.
Imedi TV, Rustavi 2 and the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s 1st Channel covered the case with the following identical wording:
Ivanishvili’s team in Kvishkheti [headline used by the 1st Channel]
"The family and friends of the late Solomon Kimeridze yesterday refused to let Ivanishvili’s supporters into their house.
The oligarch’s party members were transported to the village of Kvishkheti by a number of mini-buses and accompanied by the camera crew of one of the TV stations. Ivanishvili’s party members asked the family to have an alternative medical examination of the body conducted.
The political party members were trying to enter Kimeridze’s house with the TV cameras which irritated the mourning household as well as the relatives. According to Kimeridze’s family and the villagers, the political movement representatives had already come to Kvishkheti on several occasions with the aim to politicize a family tragedy [and to exacerbate the situation artificially - Channel 1 only]. Kimeridze’s family and the neighbors forced the members of Ivanishvili’s team to leave the village."
Until this point, the wording is identical. Then the anchors of Rustavi 2 and Channel 1 added the following sentence:
"Kimeridze’s family asks the representatives of oppositional parties to refrain from interfering in this family tragedy."
The anchors of Imedi and Channel 1 added:
"Givi Kimeridze, Solomon Kimeridze’s son, is saying that Sozar Subari and four persons accompanying him accessed their house during the night without permission and took photos of the body."
Channel 1 closed with:
"According to Givi Kimeridze, his family is against any such activities and asks everybody not to use their tragedy for personal political gains."
Police chief fired
The Ministry of Interior meanwhile has fired the local police chief, for failing to ensure the building’s compliance with safety norms. The ministry continues to treat Kimeridze's death as an accident, saying that he died after falling down a flight of stairs in the police building.
The Public Defender as well as civil society representatives have demanded an independent investigation of the case. TI Georgia supports this demand.
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