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- Georgian official calms public, slams TV for fake invasion report
The fake news report aired on Georgian TV was a provocation aimed at jeopardizing regional stability and security, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday.
The Imedi TV channel sparked panic in Georgia on Saturday with a broadcast that said Russian tanks had invaded the capital and the country's president was dead.
"The provocative TV show has caused tangible damage to security and stability in the region, significantly heightening the intensity of an already complex situation," Andrei Nesterenko said.
He added that the move was "irresponsible and immoral" especially with regard to Georgian society where it "caused panic."
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 united against Russia's plans."
Imedi head Georgy Arveladze said on Monday that the special report was a warning against a possible danger.
"Our objective was not to scare society but to show the dangers facing our country," he said.
He added that he assumed full responsibility for the report and apologized for its negative consequences.
The Georgian government immediately moved to calm public fears caused by the report, which intended to illustrate a studio discussion on the chance of a renewed conflict.
"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 in the Imedi studio shortly after the broadcast.
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.
Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent in August 2008 after its forces repelled a Georgian attack on the latter republic, dismissed the TV channel's stunt.
Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh called the fake news report "tremendous idiocy" that warranted no attention at all.
MOSCOW, March 15 (RIA Novosti)
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