Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2010

Georgia On Everyone's Mind

Saturday night TV usually follows a predictable pattern: quiz shows, movies and sports. So Georgians were in for the shock of their lives when the progovernment Imedi station reported during prime-time viewing over the weekend that Russian tanks were yet again invading their land, barely 18 months on from the short lived war of 2008. What's more, according to the channel, the country's pro-western leader Mikheil Saakashvili had been murdered. Panic understandably ensued as people piled onto the streets, and the cell phone network collapsed. Thankfully, war had not broken out but rather Imedi had mistakenly shown details of how events might unfold if the president had been killed.

Apparently the broadcast was introduced as a simulation of possible events but this warning was clearly lost on many Georgians: people were taken to hospital suffering from stress and it's been reported that one woman, whose son was in the army, had a heart attack and died. Imedi later apologized but not before "events" in Georgia filtered across to Russia where state news agency, Interfax, broke news of the apparent invasion and Saakashvili's demise. But as foreign correspondents began to spring into action, they were soon halted in their flak jacket tracks by former reporter David Cracknell. Now working for the Georgian government, Cracknell put a swift end to the story. He sent journalists a two word text message: "Not true."