In the past month, Georgian officials have seized thousands of satellite dishes from the pro-opposition Maestro and Global TV stations, accusing the companies to be involved in vote bribery in an operation linked to opposition party Georgian Dream’s leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Maestro TV’s satellite dishes being installed, 12 July. Courtesy of Maestro TV’s
A close up of one of the seized Maestro TV satellite dishes. Courtesy of Maestro TV’s
As a response to the recent seizure of Maestro’s dishes, media workers and media consumers have organized a rally in front of Tbilisi’s parliament 25 July, demanding the immediate return of equipment seized from the company.
The protesters hold banners showing satellite dishes with the label “Wanted, suspected of distributing free media.” The participants to the rally also signed a satellite dish and sent it to President Mikhail Saakashvili, pointing out that the country was suffering a lack of satellite dishes and that the president may need one.
Maestro TV announces a rally outside its headquarters on Facebook, 13. July. Image courtesy Maestro TV’s Facebook page.
In fact, buying and selling of satellite dishes seems to have become a difficult trade in the country. A casual investigation conducted by Transparency International Georgia revealed that traders are reluctant to sell more than two or three dishes per customer. When asked why they won’t sell more, one salesman replied: “The market for antennas is gone at the moment.” Asked what had happened, he responded: “Politics,” while others pointed to “political misunderstandings.”
President Saakashvili has recently addressed and rejected accusations of authoritarianism in Georgia, but even though a new media law formerly requires the transmission of every TV channel in cable’s operators packages until the October elections, the opposition’s messages still face difficulties in reaching the audience.
Image from a PressTVGlobalNews video