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Government drives Georgian Times to bankruptcy09.12.2010 | 15:12
Georgian Times, a pro-opposition newspaper, shuts down in Georgia because of the financial difficulties that emerged after the owner's escape as a political refugee and withdrawal of advertisers avoiding problems with the authorities. Nana Gagua, the editor-in-chief, accounts closure for ideological considerations. Malkhaz Gulashvili, her husband and the owner of the newspaper highlighted in an interview with GeorgiaTimes: his major concern is his life, not newspapers. Still, he has no regrets.
Recently Nana Gagua, the editor-in-chief, announced suspension of Georgian Times. With the family troubles she has had, the newspaper can no more be unbiased, she remarked. Cal-batono Nana and her younger son are still in Tbilisi while her husband Malkhaz Gulashvili and their elder son are hiding away in Russia. Gagua's decision is not to mix up her public duty with personal obligations. "I did not want to do my job in anger and convey my personal emotions to the reader", - she told Caucasus Press.
"Despite the events my family has been facing of late and due to the efforts of the highly professional journalist staff the newspaper was issued without breaks for seven months. Rumors about masked people rushing into the editors office are an exaggeration", - the editor-in-chief added.
The newspaper shuts down for ideological reasons. Besides, it desperately needs financial and marketing reorganization", - Gagua added.
Malkhaz Gulashvili agrees with his wife and thinks she had no other choice. He says the newspaper was greatly affected by the financial crisis caused by economic pressure of the government. We wrote recently about the ways the government is driving Trialeti TV, a regional TV company, to bankruptcy by scaring away advertisers. The same method was used against GeorgianTimes in struggle against independent journalism.
- Advertising stopped immediately after my departure. We earned a lot on it, and now the newspaper fails to compensate expenses, - Gulashvili explained to our correspondent. - At first the English-language paper version was closed, now it's Georgian. Electronically, however, GeorgianTimes continues.
- What exactly irritates the government in your newspaper?
- It's the truth we have always told and keep telling. Shutting down a newspaper is also a democracy indicator in Georgia. Now that my family has to survive newspaper issues are dropped. My son and I are absolutely blameless, yet our family is split in two. The authorities were afraid of my Russian connections after I had a meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, and they started hallucinating. We wanted to go to Europe but when we applied to the consulate for my son's passport renewal, they launched a criminal case, and we were blocked here. We can't go anywhere. Presently my elder son must go to the 12th grade, and there is no 12th grade in Russia, thus he can't leave school and get a certificate. This is a difficult situation. Our major concern is life now, not newspapers. This is a fascist policy: ok if they have something against me, but how is it connected with my son?
On June 8, the father and son were found guilty in their absence on article 334 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (State border crossing in a group in circumvention of a border checkpoint). Malkhaz and David were sentenced to two months' preliminary imprisonment.
Malkhaz himself does not plead guilty. He entered Akhalgori (Leningori) district of South Ossetia from Dusheti district. Since Georgia does not acknowledge secession, there was no border crossing. Besides, there is no Georgian border checkpoint between Tskhinval and Vladikavkaz. But these are Tbilisi's problems that have nothing to do with the journalists whose documents for customs officers- a Russian visa and his passport - were correct and in place. So it's evident that pursuit of Gulashvili is purely political.
- It is an eloquent demonstration of Georgia's "democracy" - supported by Europe, by the way. The whole family of journalists risks their lives. My sons worked with me issuing the newspaper, staying in the printing office even at night. My wife is the editor-in-chief, I am a publisher. We are physically and morally threatened. My younger son can't go out after 11 pm. You know that I left after my son was kidnapped by four unknown persons and it was a miracle he survived. It is impossible to live in a situation like this. We consider applying for political asylum in Europe or in Russia.
- Do you regret having tried to counteract the regime, to write the truth? Wouldn't it have been better to write "permitted" materials, like other journalists do?