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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgian Authorities Evict Critical Television Station

ReutersJangirashvili reacting to the television station's eviction Friday in Tbilisi.
TBILISI, Georgia -- A television station linked to the opposition in Georgia was evicted from its offices Friday, in a move it says was because of its critical reporting.

Officials, meanwhile, said it was just a property dispute.

The Kavkasia station was off the air after police sealed off the building in the capital, Tbilisi, where it had its offices.

The Kavkasia station has been under pressure for more than a decade because of its criticism of the government and its links to opposition parties, station owner and editor in chief Nino Jangirashvili said.

"We received a phone call at 5:00 a.m. demanding that we vacate the office. Now we are not being allowed in to pick up our equipment," Jangirashvili said.

"They deliberately evicted us to create problems for our television station," she said. The station broadcasts to Tbilisi and its suburbs.

Other businesses that rent space in the same, state-owned building were also evicted.

Officials said the tenants were forced out because they did not agree to a rent increase. Georgia's Economy Ministry wants to sell the building for around $20 million, an official said.

"The authorities are within their rights to demand that the premises be vacated," said Mikhail Machavariani, deputy speaker of Georgia's parliament and a close ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"It is not true to say that we are limiting press freedoms," he added. "In Georgia the press and television do and say whatever they want completely freely."

Georgia's media are freer than in most countries in the region, though international rights groups say there have been incidents of official interference in television news coverage. (Reuters, Bloomberg)