The Parliament violates the law in relation to the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

The Parliament violates the law in relation to the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster

27 January, 2017

According to the Law on Broadcasting, the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster consists of nine members, and one-third of trustees are supposed to change by rotation once in every two years. The timeframes for the election of new trustees are also set by the same law.

“30 calendar days before the expiry or within 10 calendar days after the termination of powers of a trustee, the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia shall issue an order about holding a competition, which shall specify a period of no more than 15 calendar days for the submission of applications by candidates for trustee.”[1]

In June 2016, Natela Sakhokia resigned from the Board of Trustees, and since that time the Board has continued to function with eight members. Despite the fact that the Parliament was supposed to announce a competition for the selection of a trustee within 10 days of Ms. Sakhokia’s resignation, the competition has yet to be announced, which violates the requirements of the Law on Broadcasting.  

This is not the first case of the Board of Trustees working with an incomplete composition. Virtually all the Boards since the establishment of the Public Broadcaster have come across this problem. In parallel with the reforms underway in the Public Broadcaster, several waves of the changes have also touched the Board of Trustees. Since 2005, members of the Board have changed by rotation. There was a time when the Board of Trustees had 15 members, and for several months in 2007, the Board was even left without any members. And after the 2012 parliamentary elections, the composition of the Board changed completely.     

The first Board

The first Board of the Public Broadcaster started working in 2005 with a composition of nine members. In the same year, two trustees – Tamar Kintsurashvili and Gia Khubua – resigned from the Board. The year 2007 saw the expiry of the powers of three more trustees, while a fourth trustee, Levan Tarkhnishvili, was appointed the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission. During all this time, the Board was not supplemented with new members. Finally, based on an agreement between the authorities and the opposition, the remaining members of the Board resigned from their positions on their own will and the Parliament elected a new composition of the Board.   

Resignation of the Chairperson and members

In February 2008, the Chairperson of the Board, Erekle Tripolski, resigned from the Board. His position was not left vacant for a long time, and in July of the same year the Parliament approved the candidacy of a new trustee, Otar Koberidze. Nearly a year later, in April 2009, four more members resigned from the Board.  In July 2009, the Parliament filled only three out of four vacant positions on the Board. And in September of the same year, amendments were made to the Law on Broadcasting, which increased the number of the Board members to 15. The staffing of the 15-member Board was ultimately completed in December 2009.

Changes at the time of the 15-member Board

The year 2010 saw the election of two members of the Board of Trustees. Mamuka Pachuashvili was approved as a trustee for a second time, and Giorgi Meladze also joined the Board. In 2011, Shorena Shaverdashvili and Lika Chakhunashvili resigned from the Board. In that year, the Board was only joined by one member, Ekaterine Mazmishvili. In 2012, three members – Giga Nasaridze, Nodar Sarjveladze, and Davit Aprasidze – left the Board. In the same year, only two members – Zaza Korinteli and Natalia Dvali – were elected. As a result, by 2013 the Board consisted of 13 members. On September 1, 2013, the powers of four members of the Board expired, and Ekaterine Mazmishvili resigned from the Board. Later, Avtandil Antidze also resigned. Only seven members remained on the Board, which made the body incapable of making decisions. At about the same time, the Parliament again changed the number of the Board’s members and brought it down to nine.   

New board without members nominated by the parliamentary minority

The process of election of the nine-member Board of Trustees was underway at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. In two votes taken in December and January, the Parliament managed to elect four members. Several months later, the Parliament approved three more members, although it still refused to support candidates nominated from the quota of the opposition. As a result, the Board was functioning with seven members till April 2016 when the Parliament approved four new members (two of them replaced trustees whose powers had expired). The Board worked with full composition only for several months, until Natela Sakhokia resigned from her position.

The Advisory Board of the Public Broadcaster of Adjara                                    

The Advisory Board of the Public Broadcaster of Adjara also faces the problem of incomplete staffing. The Supreme Council of Adjara initially formed the Board only with the Georgian Dream’s candidates. In 2016, Zaza Khalvashi resigned from the Advisory Board, and the competition for electing a new member of the Board has yet to be announced.

The process of election of advisors was constantly subjected to political accusations and manipulations. This is indicated by the fact that the process of election of new members was constantly protracted, and the candidates who were critical of the authorities and of the editorial policy of the broadcaster itself often failed to be elected.

The Parliament of Georgia and the Supreme Council of Adjara should act more responsibly with regard to the staffing of the public broadcasters’ boards and should ensure that they are supplemented with new members in a timely manner, in order to guarantee unimpeded work of the boards. At the same time, the process of election of members of the boards should be as transparent and objective as possible, which, in itself, is one of the prerequisites for the broadcasters’ independence.

[1] The Law on Broadcasting, Article 25

Author: TI Georgia