Georgian opposition TV stormed by special forces
TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgian opposition television station Imedi, which has led coverage of ongoing anti-government protests, said it had gone off the air after its building was stormed by special police forces wielding guns.
After the station announced it was being stormed, the signal was turned off to viewers in Tbilisi, a Reuters reporter said. There was no immediate comment from the Georgian government.
Reuters witnesses said special forces made everyone in the building lie down and put guns to the heads of some people there before smashing mobile telephones.
"Heavily armed special police forces stormed the building and ordered everyone down on the floor," said Gia Maisashvili, an opposition leader who was inside the station when it was stormed.
"They placed guns at the heads of lots of people and smashed some equipment," he said.
Dozens of special forces troops, wearing masks and heavily armed, were guarding the station's compound in a Tbilisi suburb. They were preventing people from entering or leaving the station's compound, including ambulances.
"There were dozens of police special forces who rushed into the building and ordered everyone to lie down on the floor and take out our mobile phones," an Imedi cameraman told Reuters outside the station's building.
"They then started to destroy everyone's mobile phones and have forced all the journalists and staff to leave the building," the cameraman said.
News Corp, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, said last week it was ready to take over management of a 51 percent stake in Imedi owned by Georgian tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who has bankrolled the opposition.
Another television station, Kavkazia, which broadcasts only in the capital, was also taken off air late on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Margarita Antidze and Niko Mchedlishvili; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)
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