Georgian TV “Simulation” Creates “War of the Worlds” Panic in the Caucasus   Leave a comment

MARCH 14, 2010: A television station in Georgia triggered a panic when it broadcast a mock half-hour report about a Russian invasion of the country.

Emotions are still raw in many parts of Georgia after Russian tanks, troops and armored vehicles advanced into the former Soviet Republic in August 2008.

That invasion was triggered after Georgian troops attacked pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. In the fighting that ensued, each side offered conflicting figures on how many people died.

On the evening of March 13, 2010, pro-government Imedi TV in Georgia broadcast what it called a “simulation” of what a fresh invasion would look like. The broadcast ended with a note that the events in it were not real.

The show did not run any on-screen notes during the half-hour broadcast to alert viewers that what they were watching was not real.

Viewers were alarmed.

The show used archived sound bites from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as well as footage of Georgians fleeing the 2008 conflict.

Throughout the show, the anchor provided “updates” that Russian forces had bombed the airport in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, and a military base in the country.

It reported that four Georgians had been killed and six wounded near South Ossetia.

About two hours later, the station began scrolling a text, apologizing for spreading panic among viewers.

Manana Manjgaladze, the spokeswoman for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, also made an unexpected live appearance at Imedi’s studio to apologize to viewers for the false alarm.

Patriarch Ilia II, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, condemned the fake report.

“This kind of experiment is a crime to our people and to humanity,” he said in a sermon before thousands of worshippers at Sunday Mass in Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

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