Non-governmental Organizations Request Parliamentary Discussions on Current Events at Public Broadcaster
Civil society once again responds to the latest developments taking place at Public Service Broadcaster. Increasing influence of individuals connected to the government and the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili at Public Broadcaster is alarming and contradicts the mission of a public broadcaster in a democratic society.
Nepotistic Staffing Policy
Appointment of individuals connected to Bidzina Ivanishvili and his companies to the key management and journalistic positions has generated legitimate criticism from the civil society. In the beginning of 2017 Board of Trustees appointed Vasil Maghlaperidze to the position of a general director - who has worked, at various times, as a general producer of TV program 20/30 at TV channel GDS, as well as, an assistant director at Channel Nine, owned by Ivanishvilis.
Since the appointment of Maghlaperidze, former and current employees of GDS, owned by Ivanishvilis, have been hired without competition and en masse at Public Broadcaster, including the appointment of Ia Antadze, Nodar Chichinadze and others at executive positions. Information regarding these appointments has been reported throughout the year.
Editorial policy with bias towards the government
The latest studies have clearly shown that the editorial policy of Public Broadcaster and, therefore, criticism towards the government has significantly softened. Public broadcaster has a “soft, not a watchdog position towards the government”, negatively affecting the Georgian media environment.
Contested Legislative Initiative
The legislative initiative of the new management of Public Broadcaster, which envisions amendments to the Law on Broadcasting significantly decreases transparency and publicity of Public Broadcaster. This initiative increases authority of the management of Public Broadcaster, weakens Board of Trustees, creates risks of corrupt deals, weakens protection mechanisms for employees of Public Broadcaster.
Since the appointment of the new management, Public Broadcaster has changed its approach towards future programs numerous times. Questions are raised by the rejection, based on unclear reasoning, of programs selected through competitions.
In October 2017 owners of the companies that have been awarded contracts by Public Broadcaster came to public attention. A contract for procurement of lighting system for new programs, worth GEL 346 thousand, was awarded to a company owned by the son of Bidzina Ivanishvili, Bera Ivanishvili, while the director of the company is a person closely associated with Bidzina Ivanishvili, Goga Khaindrava. The anchor of the program will be Maka Tsintsadze, who was a lead journalist on GDS TV channel, owned by Ivanishvili family. Later, based on Bera Ivanishvili’s statement, it became clear that he wasn’t informed about the tender and he will gift the above-mentioned lighting system to Public Broadcaster. Bera Ivanishvili’s statement raised further questions about how the company had decided to participate in the tender without informing its owner and without his consent, as well as, questions whether Public Broadcaster can accept such an expensive gift and retain unbiased editorial policy with the current leadership team.
Furthermore, a company owned by Goga Khaindarava won another tender announced by Public Broadcaster - a contract worth GEL 484 thousand for production and technical support of TV series.
The current events transpiring at Public Broadcaster, strengthening of influence of the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and the government, causes a serious concern and raises questions about bias of the TV channel and creates risks of politicization, contradicting the idea of a public broadcaster and threatening media environment.
We call upon the Parliament of Georgia to examine the ongoing events at Public Broadcast and to organize a public discussion regarding fulfillment of obligations, as defined in the law, by Public Broadcaster.
Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia)
International Society For Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED)
Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association(GYLA)
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Human Rights Center
Article 42 of the Constitution
Georgian Reform Association (GRASS)
Center for Investigative Journalism and Advocacy
Institute of development of Freedom of information (IDFI)
Research Center for Economic Policy
Civil Development Agency - SIDA
For Better Future (Tserovani)
Friendship Bridge Kartlosi (Gori)
Akhaltsikhe Youth Center (Akhaltsikhe)
Center for Civil Monitoring and Research (Kharagauli)
Step Forward (Batumi)
Center of Democratic Meskhs (Akhaltsikhe)
Civil Initiative Association (Akhaltsikhe)
We for Healthy Future (Tserovani)
Step Kharagauli (Kharaguali)
Center for Mountain Development (Stepantsminda)
Dusheti Development Center (Dusheti)
Peace Charter (Ninotsminda)