A 30-minute long fake report by Imedi television station on Saturday evening as if Russian troops were advancing to Tbilisi triggered panic and also wave of anger on the television station, which has a nationwide broadcasting.
In a brief notice to viewers before the launch of the report, the television station told viewers it was "a simulation" of what might happen in case Russian plans materialize. But in the course of the report itself the TV station carried no sign on the screen indicating that the report was fake.
As the fake report was running mobile networks crushed for several minutes as many were trying to call to find out what was happening. News agencies reported, that number of calls received by an emergency ambulance service, increased significantly at the time when the fake report was running on Imedi TV.
The report was aired by the Imedi TV's weekly program Special Report, which started just couple of minutes before 8pm - time when Imedi TV runs its usual news bulletin Kronika. Imedi TV's head is Giorgi Arveladze, former member of government and a long-time ally of President Saakashvili.
"Have you ever thought about the end of the Georgian statehood? Probably yes, because we have already seen this threat in summer, 2008," an anchor of Special Report, Natia Koberidze, said while opening the program.
She then continued: "Russia's tactic against Georgia becomes more and more dangerous. The occupying force is vigorously searching for and is finding a foothold within the Georgian political spectrum."
"We want to offer you a simulated, special bulletin of Kronika. Our viewers and invited guest [in Special Report program's studio] will see a news bulletin of probably the toughest day for Georgia, which take into view those threats which politicians and experts are discussing regularly; [a news bulletin about] how events may develop if the society is not consolidated against Russia's plans. Let's see the news bulletin about the worst future."
After these introductory remarks by the anchor, a regular 8pm news bulletin of Imedi TV, Kronika, started. The story line of the fake report focuses on post-local election period, sometime in early June, 2010; opposition, allegedly led by Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Nogaideli - the two politicians who have recently met with Russia's PM Vladimir Putin, protests against the local election results; Russia uses unrests in Georgia and intervenes militarily. The fake report culminated with announcement about President Saakashvili's "assassination" and "clashes" in outskirt of Tbilisi.
A regular anchor of 8pm Kronika opened the news bulletin with announcing that President Saakashvili would make a special statement about "the current situation in Georgia."
Then he continued: "As it was reported few minutes ago, the Russian military forces, including its tank battalion, deployed in Akhalgori [breakaway South Ossetia], declared combat readiness; it is not ruled out that they will marched towards the capital [Tbilisi]. This information caused panic in Gori, Tbilisi and other Georgian cities; residents are trying to flee Tbilisi causing traffic jams and queues at petrol stations... sabotage on strategic facilities is not ruled out."
A caption was running bellow the screen, saying: "Mobilization of the occupying forces; Akhalgori-based military unit on combat readiness."
Then a new story line came into the fake report with the news bulletin anchor announcing that "nine persons wounded as a result of unrests in Tbilisi still remain in hospital" and that four people were "killed" in those unrests.
"Unrests in Tbilisi started on June 7 after unknown persons opened fire on protesters gathered in the Tbilisi center to protest against the election results," the anchor announced.
Mentioning of "June 7" was among those few vague clues which the fake report contained indicating that it was not true, but not definitely enough, as the report was developing in such a way that it was becoming more misleading and many viewers, especially those who started watching it not from its very start, thought it was all true.
Then back in studio, the news bulletin anchor announced that the opposition parties made a joint statement "declaring the authorities as illegal and announcing about establishment of so called people's government." It was again followed by a separate fake report on details of "opposition's statement" with use of archive footage from one of the meeting of opposition leaders.
Back in the studio the anchor again repeated, about seven minutes after the launch of the news bulletin, the initial announcement that Akhalgori-based Russian military forces were on high alert and their advance towards Tbilisi was not ruled out. The anchor also added that "the Georgian troops are mobilized at the administrative border close to Akhalgori and in Ergneti village."
Then the anchor made an introduction to a new story line to the fake report, involving "life attempt" on leader of breakaway South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity. The anchor announced that Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia party and ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli, leader of Movement for Fair Georgia, "arrived in Tskhinvali" and "along with the Russian authorities, they also blamed the Georgian authorities for organizing attack on Kokoity." The announcement was followed with a report with archive footage of Tskhinvali and a journalist voiceover telling a fake story about the details of "attack on Kokoity."
After that the anchor in the studio announced that the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev summoned a national security council. A video footage of Medvedev followed accompanied with a voiceover Georgian translation as if Medvedev was saying that he was ordering his government "to neutralize threat coming from Saakashvili." The newscaster also announced that Russian troops based in Armenia, "have crossed the Georgian border and are heading towards Tbilisi."
The fake story then continued with anchor announcing, citing "information provided by the people's government that three battalions of the Georgian armed forces refused to support Saakashvili government and that they go under the subordination of the people's government."
The White House was also included in the fake report with the anchor announcing that President Obama "is just making a statement; here is a live footage" from Washington - again an archive footage was showed, although with caption "live" showing President Obama with Vice President Biden standing next to him; a voiceover Georgian translation gave a false quote of the U.S. President as if saying that he calls Russia "to stop military campaign" against Georgia. After that anchor also announced that Secretary of State Clinton was "on her way to Moscow."
The anchor then announced that "few minutes ago Russia conducted air strikes on Tbilisi airport... on Senaki and Gori military bases."
It was followed by "a sensational information", as the anchor put it, about "assassination of President Saakashvili." "We are not yet able to confirm this report disseminated by Nogaideli's party," the anchor said; he then added that the President's administration released a statement saying "Saakashvili is in a safe location".
The fake report was then followed by announcement that "clashes are taking place in Mtskheta", just outside Tbilisi.
After the end of this 30-minute fake story, the Special Report program continued from its studio.
"For those who have just joined us, I want to say that these were not real chronicles of today; these were possible events that may take place in early June... Kronika has offered you to imagine what should not happen," anchor of Special Report, Natia Koberidze, said.
Then the program continued in studio with large group of invited guest discussing Russia-Georgia relations and potential security threats. Only few participants of the program spoke out against the fact that the Imedi TV did not run a caption saying that the report was fake.
In the course of the program the anchor had to repeat for several times that it was "a simulation", as many viewers were phoning to the television station complaining that the TV report caused panic.
Growing protest against the fake report and signs of panic it has caused, prompted the President's administration to intervene.
About an hour after the fake report was over, Manan Manjgaladze, President Saakashvili's spokesperson, arrived in studio of the Special Report program and requested to make a statement. She said that she was instructed by President Saakashvili to come and express on his behalf "concern and alarm" about this fake report.
"There should have been a caption on the screen showing that it was simulation," she said.
Manjgaladze, herself a former anchor of Imedi TV news bulletin, said she believed the television station should apologize.
"Theoretically such things, which were shown today might be possible, but there is no real threat of that," she said.
After the program was over, the Imedi TV continuously was running a caption below the screen apologizing for the fake report.
"It aimed at obstructing Russia's aggressive plans," the caption reads.
The program was not yet over as several Facebook campaign groups emerged condemning Imedi TV. In few hours one such group attracted over 2,000 supporters and another one over 2,800.
There have also been calls for a collective lawsuit against Imedi TV for misleading viewers and causing widespread alarm.
Dozens of angry people, including some opposition politicians gathered at a spontaneous rally outside the Imedi television station. Some protesters were lashing out at some of the program guests, criticizing them for not speaking out against the fake report while participating in the discussion in studio after the report was aired.
Civil Georgia further reports:
President Saakashvili said on on Sunday that Imedi TV's fake report as if Russian troops advanced to take over Tbilisi with the opposition's help "was maximally close to what may really happen."
Imedi TV, whose fake report caused a widespread outrage in Georgia, apologized for, what it called was "a simulation" of what may happen after the May local elections, but said it aimed at "obstructing Russia's aggressive plans."
Speaking at a meeting with local residents in the Bolnisi district, Saakashvili said that it was "unpleasant what we saw yesterday" and added that the TV station, despite making a brief notice in advance that it was "a simulation", should had ran a warning caption on the screen in the course of the entire report.
"But the major unpleasant thing about the yesterday's report - and I want everyone to realize it well - was that this report is maximally close to reality and maximally close to what may really happen, or to what Georgia's enemy keeps in mind," Saakashvili said.
He said that Georgia's enemy started screening "a real bad movie" for Georgia in August, 2008, "but we stopped this movie."
"Although we know that its director is still writing a script of scenario, which is close to what we saw yesterday," Saakashvili added.
In his speech Saakashvili also mentioned Nino Burjanadze, ex-parliamentary speaker and a leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, who has recently met with Russia's PM Vladimir Putin. Burjanadze and Zurab Nogaideli, ex-PM and leader of Movement for Fair Georgia party, who met separately with PM Putin, were part of the Imedi TV's fake report according to which they were key organizers of unrests in Tbilisi after the local elections, which was then followed by Russian invasion.
"The one, who shakes hand [referring to Burjanadze] with [person, referring to Putin] whose hands are in blood of people of Georgia of any ethnicity, can not have any dignity," Saakashvili said.
"After meeting with these two disgraceful politicians [referring to Burjanadze and Nogaideli], Putin said at one of closed meetings: 'As I was telling you, Georgians can not concentrate long enough on anything except of dancing and singing'. That is the result of all these [meetings with Putin]," he said.
Many opposition parties made separate statements condemning the Imedi TV's fake report, alleging that it was done in prior agreement with the authorities, in particular with President Saakashvili. Imedi TV's head is Giorgi Arveladze, who is a former government member and a long-time ally to President Saakashvili. Senior officials, however, strongly denied the allegation.
Lawmakers from the ruling party made tough-worded statements, condemning Imedi TV’s fake report.
“While the authorities are sparing no efforts to attract foreign investments, for some reasons we hear propaganda that Georgia is under threat of war and that this war is actually inevitable. This kind of propaganda of course harms the country’s interests,” MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, the parliamentary majority leader, said.
“This report is in no way a result of the authorities’ propaganda; those who speak about it are simply trying to gain political scores from this story and on the other hand also trying to harm the authorities. But the authorities are categorically against airing such TV reports and the authorities are sparing no efforts to prevent this kind of scenario,” he said.
“It was irresponsible on the part of the television station’s management and those who prepared this report; it was a huge mistake,” MP Pavle Kublashvili said.
“It was totally unethical and irresponsible; playing with viewers’ feelings is totally unacceptable,” MP Giorgi Gabashvili said.
Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, joined the condemnation of the fake report and said in his Sunday sermon in the Holy Trinity Cathedral and said it was “an insult” of the people. He said human beings should not be subjects for “experiments.”
“We condemn reports of this type,” he said. “I want to request the authorities to pay attention to this; a television station should not be uncontrolled and should not be airing abomination like this.”
Commentary: quick check of the calendar - no, today is not April 1st, and this is not some kind of April's Fool joke. Well then, God only knows what Saakashvili (his subsequent condemnation notwithstanding) and his American psyop advisers had in mind when they came up with all this crap. The end result is clear: Georgia is firmly in the lead in the "former USSR failed states" category, its population terrified, its leaders gone crazy, its economy in ruins, and its military deeply traumatized by what must be the worst defeat in the history of the Caucasus. The only thing which could save Georgia will, thank God, never happen: a Russian invasion of the entire country, followed by a lengthy (and costly) operation to restore law, order, and sanity to this self-destructed nation (ever since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Georgia had the dubious distinction of having the worst and most incompetent political leaders of any ex-Soviet republic). Russia, by the way, has absolutely zero interest in rescuing Georgia or, for that matter, in invading it. Quite the contrary, Saakashvili's Georgia - alongside Yushchenko's Ukraine - serve as perfect examples of what happens when you obsequiously follow the US Empire's orders. And Russia will not invade Georgia, it will simply calmly wait for the people in Georgia to come to the same conclusions as the people in the Ukraine came to, and then Russia will only agree to those treaties and terms which are mutually beneficial to both sides. The Russian Empire fell in 1917, and the Soviet one fell in 1991. I don't think that anybody in Russia wants to ever repeat yet another imperial experiment in which Russia ends up trying to fix the problems of all the states on its periphery. So the fears about a Russian invasion of Tbilisi (or Kiev, for that matter) and only a symptom of the sick, paranoid, minds of leaders like Saakashvili. No, the Russians are not coming. Not to invade them and not to rescue them.
UPDATE1: Some Ossetian reactions to the latest Georgian antics:
Ministry for Press and Mass Media of the Republic of South Ossetia
March 15, 2010
Murat Djioev: This was a provocation implying that the Georgian authorities are getting prepared for certain actions
The Foreign Minister of South Ossetia Murat Djioev called the report of the Imedi channel Saturday evening about alleged intrusion of Russian troops a provocation causing panic all around Georgia.
"This was a provocation aggravating the situation and speaks to the fact that Georgian authorities are getting prepared for certain actions, bearing in mind the fact that after the broadcast information Georgian armed forces moved towards the boundary line of South Ossetia", stated Murat Djioev.
"With this report, the Georgian authorities expected to threaten the people of Georgia and support the create an image of Russia as an eneny, though Russia and Russian armed forces came to Georgia exclusively as friends and protectors", said the Minister.
According to him, such provocations of the Georgian authorities do not help the settlement of the situation in the Caucasus.
Embassy of South Ossetia in the Russian Federation
Ministry for Press and Mass Media of the Republic of South Ossetia
Dmitry Medoev: The report of Imedi is a plot designed for possible future military adventures
The abassador of South Ossetia tohe Russian Federation,Dmitry Medoev, elieves that the report shown by the Georgian TV channel Imedi on an alleged invasion of Russian armed forces, which had provoked panic all around Georgia Saturday evening, should not be broadcast since it was a "plot" designed for a case of new military adventures by Tbilisi.
"It is clearly a 'pulp' version for the future. In the opinion of the Georgian authorities, scenes of attacking Russian forces should be a background for and even justification of the prepared future incursion of Georgia into South Ossetia.
"According to the plot, Russia is presented as an aggressor against Georgia, and this would serve as the grounds for the attempted forceful return of South Ossetia", stated Dmitry Medoev Sunday.
He recalled that in summer 2008, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, some Georgian media sources were enthusiastically presenting Georgian artillery fire as fire opened by Russian armed forces.
In August 2008, Georgia intruded into South Ossetia. Hundreds of civilians and peacekeepers were killed and hundreds of houses were destroyed.
After rebuffing the aggression, Russia recognized the independence pf South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Georgian authorities consider the republics as occupied territories and broke off diplomatic relations with Moscow.
According to Medoev, the report broadcast by Imedi demonstrates the readiness of the Georgian media to provide informational support to possible military adventures of the Georgian regime.