Georgian channel says loses court 'censorship' battle

13th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Georgian television channel said Tuesday it had lost a court battle accusing a French satellite operator of bowing to Russian pressure and blocking its broadcasts.

The Russian-language Perviy Kavkazky (First Caucasian) channel's editor-in-chief, Ekaterine Kotrikadze, said the French court had ruled against the channel's request to force Paris-based Eutelsat to restore its broadcasts, which were cut in January after a few weeks of test broadcasts.

"We disagree with the court's decision and we believe it's wrong. We have not yet decided whether we will appeal the decision," she told AFP.

"Currently our channel is under re-organisation. We will be back on air by the end of the year via satellite. We do not know yet which satellite will be used, we will soon start holding talks with different satellite operators."

The channel charged that Eutelsat was a "tool of Russian censorship" because it had stopped transmitting Perviy Kavkazky from its W7 satellite after signing "a lucrative contract" with Russian satellite company Intersputnik.

Eutelsat denied that it came under any pressure from Moscow and insisted that no contract was "in force" between it and the state-funded Georgia Public Broadcasting company, which runs Perviy Kavkazky.

The operator, which is 26 percent owned by a French state investment fund, said a slot on a satellite known as W2A, which it was offering to the channel, would provide it with better penetration than the W7.

The channel provides news bulletins and information programmes focusing on events in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as in Russia's North Caucasus region, challenging Moscow's influence in the strategic region.

The channel, which currently only available on the Internet, was launched amid deep tensions between Georgia and Russia, who fought a brief war in 2008 over the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

© 2010 AFP

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