MOSCOW — Conflict between police and the country’s No. 1 commercial channel flared in Georgia on Tuesday after police raided the offices of Tbilisi’s main commercial broadcaster, Rustavi-2.
The move followed instability in the Caucasian territory after rumored movement of terrorists from Russia’s breakaway republic of Chechnya through the Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Rustavi-2 had sent reporters into the area and their broadcasts are said to have enraged the ministries of Internal Security and Internal Affairs.
After the police raid, ostensibly to inspect the company’s financial records, crowds gathered in a show of support for the channel that was coordinated by members of the political opposition.
According to the channel’s director general, Nikita Tatadadze, the raid was part of a wider plan to force Rustavi-2 to suspend broadcasting.
In a region where conflict between politicians and broadcasters has been a regular matter in recent years, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze — one of the last foreign ministers of the USSR — appears to have supported protests against the police action.
According to Russia’s RIA news agency, Shevardnadze discussed developments at a cabinet meeting Wednesday, where he accepted the resignation of Vakhtang Kutateladze, Internal Security minister.