Georgian police have seized the satellite dishes of Global TV, a cable network whose largest shareowner is the the brother of opposition leader and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, according to The New York Times.
Authorities say the antennas were funded with a loan received from Bidzina Ivanishvili, and were part of a political campaign strategy, portraying the satellite dishes as a gift from the opposition leader. The chief prosecutor said this constituted vote bribing, according to Reuters.
The satellite dishes were being installed to the network clients essentially for free, as the payment was going to start after only after a year, according to Civil.ge.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose party Georgian Dream will run in the October elections against President Micheil Saakashvili’s party, was issued a multi-million dollar fine related to this case, which Ivanishvili said he would refuse to pay.
Channel 9, owned by Ivanishvili’s wife, also reports that their satellite dishes were being confiscated from their office in a small town in western Georgia, Democracy and Freedom Watch reports.
Channel 9 launched a nation-wide Internet news service earlier this week, offering an alternative to the government-controlled national TV channels. The website, info9.ge, aims at conducting independent news coverage, despite episodes of threats, pressures and blackmailing that the journalists have been subjected to.
Photo courtesy of Flikcr user Henning(i)