"Protest TV" tries to bring down Georgian leader

Thu Feb 5, 2009 9:41am EST
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By Margarita Antidze and Matt Robinson

TBILISI (Reuters) - It's been dubbed "Protest TV". A man in an improvised prison cell under the 24-hour gaze of television cameras, promising to stay put until Georgia's president quits.

"Cell No. 5" on Maestro Television has become the talk of Tbilisi's cafes and bars since airing on January 20.

It represents the extreme face of an opposition push to unseat President Mikheil Saakashvili that has gained momentum since war with Russia last year.

Confined to a converted floor of Maestro's studios, poet, rapper and political satirist Georgy Gachechiladze says he will only come out if Saakashvili resigns.

Four cameras and a microphone on the ceiling capture his every shuffling move and political rant. An edited version is broadcast in the evening, before Gachechiladze goes live all night, often with guests. He usually sleeps in the morning.

"I'd call it a talkshow in real time," said studio boss Mamuka Glonti. "Above all, it's a protest, not a business."

Saakashvili has four years left of his mandate and says he has no reason to quit. Analysts question whether his popularity has really waned as much as expected after Georgia's crushing defeat by Russian forces in their five-day war in August.

But Gachechiladze's gripe is personal.   Continued...

<p>Georgy Gachechiladze, a Georgian celebrity, speaks with Reuters, as he sits in an improvised prison cell during a live TV-show in Tbilisi February 4, 2009. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili</p>