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Georgian Opposition Seeks More TV Coverage of Anti-Government Protests

Opposition activists have renewed picketing of Georgian state television in Tbilisi demanding objective coverage of ongoing protests against the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili. State TV counters that it is providing opposition forces with more than enough air time.

Hundreds of opposition protesters have closed off all but a side entrance to Georgian State television, creating what they call a Corridor of Shame through which TV employees must pass. They are jeered as they walk by.

The Corridor went up a month ago, but was temporarily halted last week.

Event organizer and former speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Nino Burdhanadze, told VOA the opposition renewed the pickets, because previous ones have not produced any results. She notes that State TV is financed by the people of Georgia, but the opposition is not pleased with its programming.

Burdhanadze says State Television broadcasts slanted information about events transpiring in Tbilisi, and regarding the opposition and opposition parties, which do not consider the programming to be objective.

The director of Georgian State Television, Levan Kubaneshvili says the opposition refers to the Corridor as a form of moral terror against television employees. He told VOA the opposition is given plenty of airtime.

Kubaneshvili says he thinks State TV is responding adequately to all opposition activity; inviting its activists four times each week to appear on political talks shows. He says they have free airtime, and news programs cover all opposition activity, but they want more.

Georgian authorities shut down independent media in November 2007 after President Saakashvili declared a state of emergency amid mass demonstrations against him. While the crackdown ended soon after, the degree of Georgian media independence from the government has been the subject of controversy ever since.

The opposition accuses Mr. Saakashvili of authoritarian rule and has been staging renewed protests against him since last month.