Georgian TV fake invasion report “part of information war against Russia”

Opposition supporters in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Sunday criticized a television station over a mock newscast intended as satire. Getty Images

Georgian TV fake invasion report “part of information war against Russia” (RIA Novosti):

Saturday’s fake report by a Georgian TV channel on an alleged Russian invasion and on killing the South Caucasus state’s president was part of an information war waged by Georgian authorities, Russia’s envoy to NATO said Sunday.

The broadcast by Imedi TV, which used the channel’s normal news graphics, began with a warning that the program showed a sequence of possible events that could occur “if Georgian society is not brought together against Russia’s plans.” Those viewers who missed the program’s introduction took what was shown for real, thinking a new Russia-Georgia war erupted.

“This was a grandiose provocation as it will leave its trace in Georgia’s public opinion. This means attributing a stable image of [Georgia's] enemy to Russia and Russians, this means tensions regarding delimitation of borders between Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Dmitry Rogozin told the Russia Today TV channel.

“This is part of an information war [President Mikheil] Saakashvili keeps waging,” Rogozin said.

Saakashvili, 42, brought to power following the 2003 Rose Revolution, on Sunday called Imedi’s program “unpleasant” but “very close to reality,” adding that Georgia’s key task was to prevent the Imedi-shown scenario from happening in real life.

Former Georgian republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent in August 2008 after Russian troops repelled a Georgian attack on South Ossetia, have condemned the broadcast.

Panic in Georgia After a Mock News Broadcast (New York Times):

Some people placed emergency calls reporting heart attacks, others rushed in a panic to buy bread and residents of one border village staggered from their homes and dashed for safety — all after a television station in Georgia broadcast a mock newscast on Saturday night that pretended to report on a Russian invasion of the country.

The program was evidently intended as political satire, but the depiction was sufficiently realistic — and memories of the brief war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 still sufficiently vivid — that viewers headed for the doors before they could absorb the point.

Producers at the Imedi television station taped the episode in the studio normally used for the evening news broadcast, using an anchor familiar to the audience, and then broadcast the show at 8 p.m. Saturday with an initial disclaimer that many viewers apparently missed.

Looking nervous and fumbling with papers as if juggling the chaos of a breaking news story, the anchor announced that sporadic fighting had begun on the streets of Tbilisi, the capital, that Russian bombers were airborne and heading for Georgia, that troops were skirmishing to the west and that a tank battalion was reported to be on the move.

The broadcast showed tanks rumbling down a road, billowing exhaust, along with jerky images of a fighter jet racing out of the sky and dropping bombs.

“People went into a panic,” Bidzina Baratashvili, a former director of Imedi, said in a telephone interview from Tbilisi. He compared the mock news broadcast and its effect on the population to the radio depiction of an invasion from Mars in Orson Welles’s adaptation of “War of the Worlds.”

Georgia accused of approving Russian invasion hoax (abc.net.au)

The opposition party in Georgia has accused the government of being behind a fake news report showing Russian tanks had entered the capital.

There was widespread panic across Georgia with emergency services receiving thousands of calls and many elderly people packing their bags in response to the news that Russian tanks were rolling in to Tblisi.

The 20-minute television report claimed opposition leaders had called on Russian forces now stationed in South Ossetia to intervene in political unrest after local council elections in the capital.

The report showed footage taken from the August 2008 war that saw Russian forces pour into Georgia and bomb targets across the country.

The network apologised, explaining that the report was intended to be a simulation of what might happen after the elections, but that those in charge of the broadcast had forgotten to put a banner on the footage making clear that it was not real.

A brief notice before the report said it was a “simulation” of possible events but the report itself carried no warning.

Georgian TV channel apologizes for fake invasion report (RIA Novosti):

A Georgian television channel has apologized for broadcasting a fake news report about a supposed invasion of Russian troops and murder of President Mikheil Saakashvili, after being strictly criticized by the county’s authorities.

“We present apologies to the public for the demonstration as part of the Khronika newscast of the special report, which was an imitation and did not correspond to reality,” a creeping line on the TV channel says.

The program, called Special Report, was shown on the private Imedi TV channel on Saturday evening.

The broadcast, which used the channel’s normal news graphics, began with a warning that the program showed a sequence of possible events that could occur “if Georgian society is not brought together against Russia’s plans.”

The news item included clips of panicked residents trying to flee Tbilisi and reported that there was panic in Gori, Mtskheta and other regions.

The staged images and words rung true, however, when viewers who did not see the introduction took the report at face value. People from all over the country began to call each other and the TV studio to find out what was really happening.

The demonstration of the report intended to illustrate a studio discussion on the chance of a fresh conflict between Russia and Georgia, forced the Georgian authorities to calm public fears.

“I can say with confidence that, on the declaration of the president, real danger, which was imagined in the transmission…does not currently exist for our country,” a spokeswoman for President Mikheil Saakashvili said.

Manana Manjgaladze, who rushed to the studios of Imedi TV following the broadcast to join the subsequent discussion, criticized the channel for not making greater efforts to alert viewers to the fact that the report was not true.

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