The broadcast triggered widespread panic and hysteria among the Georgian population. Several Western diplomats in Tbilisi formally protested the inclusion of archive footage of them with new voiceovers allegedly condemning the Russian aggression.
The evaluation of the taped conversation was commissioned by David Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rightists party. Two experts hired by GPW, one of them a professor of Georgian Studies at the University of London, concluded that the telephone conversation between Imedi General Director Arveladze and Imedi news presenter Eka Tsamalashvili is genuine.
In that conversation, which was posted on a Russian website on March 15, Tsamalashvili argues that there should be a running line alerting viewers that the events were simulated; Arveladze tells her that "Misha," as Saakashvili is universally known, does not want any caption that would detract from the emotional impact of the broadcast.
The two British experts acknowledged some inconsistencies in the tape, which they said suggest that some parts may have been deleted. But they ruled out the possibility that anything was added, or that the entire conversation was a montage of selected extracts from several conversations, as Arveladze had suggested.
Gamkrelidze yesterday said he believes the conversation was recorded not by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), as Georgian officials have claimed, but by its Georgian counterpart.
Republican Party leader David Usupashvili said yesterday the proven authenticity of the recording constitutes adequate grounds for bringing legal action against both Arveladze and Saakashvili. He argued that by dictating to Imedi what to broadcast, Saakashvili violated the constitution and abused his official position.
Alliance for Georgia head Irakli Alasania told the independent television channel Maestro that he plans to ask parliament to establish a commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the broadcast. He also said the Alliance will ask Georgia's human rights ombudsman to draft the appropriate legal request for submission to the Constitutional Court and the Prosecutor-General to open criminal proceedings. The Alliance has begun collecting signatures to append to that formal request.