Opposition claims government behind spoof invasion broadcast
Furious Georgians have slammed a private TV channel for showing a spoof report that Russia was invading on Saturday. Opposition leaders accuse Mikhel Saakashvili’s government of being behind the broadcast.
There was panic in Tbilisi as the broadcast went out, even though it was preceded by a short announcement that it was not true. Mobile phone networks crashed, emergency services were swamped with calls and multiple heart attacks.
Saakashvili has condemned the programme.
"It was indeed a very unpleasant programme but the most unpleasant thing is that it is extremely close to what can happen and to what Georgia's enemy has conceived," he said in televised remarks.
The broadcast, on the Imedi channel which supports the government, said Russian tanks were headed for the capital Tbilisi, Saakashvili had been killed and that some opposition leaders had sided with invading forces.
Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze, a former speaker of parliament who heads the Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, says she will sue the channel for saying that she sided with the Russians.
"This government's treatment of its own people is outrageous. I am sure that every second of this programme was agreed with Saakashvili. Many people suffered psychological trauma," Burjanadze told AFP.
"Every word about me was malicious slander and I will sue both Imedi television and the authorities."
Government officials deny all advance knowledge of the programme. Imedia has apologised.