Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

UK ambassador's protest at Georgia TV hoax

UK Ambassador to Georgia Denis Keefe
Mr Keefe has asked that the TV station broadcast a correction

The British ambassador to Georgia has complained about footage of him used in a TV hoax about a Russian invasion.

There was panic in Georgia on Saturday after a TV report that Russian tanks had invaded the capital and the country's president was dead.

It included footage of ambassador Denis Keefe, which was edited to make it look like he was talking about the invasion.

Mr Keefe has asked the TV station to make it clear he knew nothing about the "irresponsible" programme.

The TV station - pro-government Imedi TV - said the aim had been to show how events might unfold if the president were killed. It later apologised.

Networks overwhelmed

It used archive footage of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia and imagined how opposition figures might seize power after an assassination of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

But many Georgians believed it to be a real news report - mobile phone networks were overwhelmed with calls and many people rushed on to the streets.

Mr Keefe, footage of whom was included in the report, has complained about the programme on the British Embassy in Georgia's website.

I consider Imedi TV's misuse of this footage to be a discourtesy to me as ambassador of the United Kingdom in Georgia
Denis Keefe

He said the use of archive footage of him speaking about "real events completely unrelated to the subject of the programme was deeply misleading".

He also complained that there had been a suggestion that the president of Georgia and the British prime minister had spoken about the "non-existent events described".

"I wish to make clear that neither I, nor the UK government had any involvement in or foreknowledge of an irresponsible programme that unnecessarily caused deep concern amongst the Georgian public," Mr Keefe said.

"I consider Imedi TV's misuse of this footage to be a discourtesy to me as ambassador of the United Kingdom in Georgia, reflecting badly on Georgia's reputation for responsible and independent media."

He urged the station to "make clear as soon as possible, on air... that this footage was not genuine and that it was used without my consent or knowledge".

The head of the holding company that owns Imedi TV, George Arveladze, has said he was sorry for the distress that the TV report had caused - 18 months after Russian tanks came within 45km (28 miles) of the Georgian capital.

The report has been seen by some as a swipe at the Georgian opposition politicians who recently travelled to Moscow to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.



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