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France's ambassador to Georgia on Tuesday criticized as "irresponsible" a bogus report about Russian invasion of Georgia recently aired by Georgian television.
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 report used footage from the August 2008 conflict with Russia, and the French ambassador was also shown in the broadcast.
"I was very surprised to see my image used in a wrong context," Eric Fournier said in a statement addressed to Imedi head, Georgy Arveladze.
The French diplomat called the hoax report "irresponsible" and "far from meeting the standards of professional journalism."
"This unfortunate event has blemished the image of your channel," Fournier said.
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."
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 report had contravened Georgian broadcasters' professional code of conduct by carrying no clear warning that it was fictitious and sparked a wave of international criticism, including from the United States. Archive footage of President Barack Obama giving a statement was used with a Georgian voiceover to give the impression he was supporting Georgia during the supposed Russian invasion.
Georgia's National Media Commission ordered Imedi to apologize to the public for the report and examine complaints from all the "victims" - people who had reportedly suffered heart attacks and experienced other health problems over the report.
TBILISI, March 16 (RIA Novosti)
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