Georgian TV host's obscene on-air anti-Putin tirade sparks temporary cut, spontaneous protests
The Georgian television channel Rustavi 2 temporarily went offline on the night of July 7 after host Georgy Gabunia unleashed a profanity-laden tirade on air against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Shortly after the program aired, a number of viewers who objected to Gabunia’s behavior gathered spontaneously outside the Rustavi 2 headquarters and began to protest. The protesters demanded Gabunia’s resignation, and Rustavi 2 temporarily shut down due to safety concerns.
The company’s leadership apologized for Gabunia’s words and announced that he had violated the channel’s ethical norms and editorial policies.
A number of Georgian politicians also criticized Gabunia, including Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili. She wrote on Twitter that she “unconditionally condemns [Gabunia’s] hate speech, verbal agression, insults and provocatory statements.” His actions “go against all Georgian traditions, serve only to divide and raise tensions in the country, with Russia and in the region.,” the president continued.
Rustavi 2 went back on air on the morning of July 8.
In late June, mass protests broke out in Tbilisi following an appearance in the Georgian parliament by Russian State Duma Deputy Sergey Gavrilov. Following the demonstrations, Russia instituted a ban beginning July 8 on all Russian-run flights into Georgia and Georgian-run flights into Russia. The Kremlin indicated that the ban would be lifted when the mood in Georgia shifted “in a non-Russophobic direction.”
Update: Georgy Gabunia has been placed on temporary leave.