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Georgian TV suspends host amid outrage over vulgar anti-Putin rant - RFE/RL

09.07.2019, 14:18
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Georgia's opposition-run television channel Rustavi-2 has suspended journalist Giorgi Gabunia for two months over the presenter’s crude tirade against Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. Earlier on July 8, Rustavi-2 ceased its broadcasts for six hours after hundreds of demonstrators protested against on-air obscenities used by the program host to describe Putin. The tirade in Russian by Gabunia, the host of a news analysis program called Postscript, has been condemned as a "provocation" by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and Tbilisi's Mayor Kakha Kaladze as well as Russia's Foreign Ministry. Gabunia called Putin a "stinking occupier" and a "walrus' c**t" amid a string of obscenities used to curse the Russian president, as well as Putin's mother and father -- finally vowing that he would defecate on Putin's grave. Gabunia's rant against Putin comes at one of the most tense periods in relations between Russia and Georgia since they fought a five-day war in 2008. Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze called Gabunia's outburst "nothing but a disgusting act of provocation and an attempt to destabilize our country. Something that is totally unacceptable." The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, which is an independent union of journalists, described Gabunia's minute-long diatribe as "unethical behavior" by a journalist that damages public trust and respect for all journalists. Demonstrators began gathering outside the Rustavi-2 building in Tbilisi late on July 7 after Gabunia introduced his weekly program with the vulgar rant against Putin. "What happened is a great shame on Georgians," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "All of that is nothing else but a consequence of the reluctance or lack of readiness of the state to tighten up the screws over youngsters with extremist inclinations from the very outset," Peskov added. Russia's Foreign Ministry described Gabunia's remarks as an "unacceptable attack in obscene language" that was "unprecedented in its meanness." "We regard this as another open provocation of the Georgian radical forces aimed at undermining Russia-Georgian ties," the Russian ministry said in a statement. Flight Ban The Russian Foreign Ministry also praised Georgian authorities who "found the strength to dissociate themselves from the provocateurs and condemn their behavior." "We also see the fair resentment with which the incident was perceived in Georgian society," it said. Rustavi-2 Director General Nika Gvaramia said he made the decision to temporarily suspend broadcasts of the 24-hour TV channel after several of the station's journalists and cameramen were attacked by protesters. The station went off the air at about 2 a.m. on July 8 and remained silent until broadcasts resumed at 8 a.m. Protesters demanded the resignations of both Gabunia and Gvaramia. Gabunia's tirade was broadcast just hours before Putin's decree banning direct flights between Russia and Georgia went into effect on July 8. Georgian analysts say the flight ban could cost Georgia's economy up to $300 million a year. Putin signed the flight ban order on June 21 in response to anti-Russia protests that broke out in Tbilisi. Those protests were sparked by a Russian State Duma deputy who sat in the chair of Georgia's parliamentary speaker and addressed a gathering of lawmakers from predominantly Orthodox Christian countries. More than 240 people were injured late on June 20 when Georgian riot police fired rubber bullets and water cannons to turn back crowds trying to storm into parliament. Daily protests have continued since then by demonstrators who are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia over the police crackdown. Nearly 11 years after the five-day Russia-Georgia war in which Russian forces occupied Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, many Georgians still openly express anger and resentment at Russia. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
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