The Board of Directors of Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and members of the United National Movement (UNM) held a meeting on November 8th. The main topic of discussion was the Revenue Service's ongoing audit of GPB and the politicization of the media by the current government.
Second round of GPB auditing ongoing
By Keti Arjevanidze
Friday, November 9
“I clearly remember the threatening tone which the current Prime Minister used, when he was talking with journalists saying that they will have to change their rhetoric. I think that it is the beginning of his revenge.” UNM member Maia Nadirashvili said.
According to UNM member Davit Darchiashvili the audit of GPB is clearly politically motivated. “The government is overstepping its legal rights and is trying to interfere in the administration of GPB." Darchiashvili stated.
GPB board members state that they are not against periodic audits of GPB but are suspicious about the current audit. “Its form is suspicious and excessive and perhaps there is some political motivation behind it all." GPB Board Member Mamuka Phachuashvili said.
"They [the Revenue Service] are not concerned with the long term effects that their audit and investigation will have on GPB; they are only concerned with achieving their short term goals. GPB is an important institution and must not be disrupted like this." Chairman of GPB's Board of Directors Levan Gakheladze said.
General Director of GPB Gia Chanturia stated on November 7th that GPB is cooperating fully with the Revenue Service's audit and investigation. However he added that some “legitimate” questions still exist, because of the Revenue Service’s “sudden" entrance. According to Chanturia an official audit of GPB was planned for 2013. “When the Revenue Service officers entered our office, they said that it was a planned audit, but when I asked for documentation they didn't provide anything." Chanturia said. “We are in regular communication with different international organizations and we have made them aware of this issue [the audit]. We have nothing to hide.” Chanturia added.
Revenue Service Officer Aleko Mchedlishvili responded to Chanturia's statements on November 8th. "Auditing by the Revenue Service does not require any forewarning. It is random and any time the Revenue Service feels the need to conduct an audit it has the right to do so."
Georgian Dream (GD) members have also commented on the issue. Eka Beselia, the head of Human Rights Defense Committee, said "If there is some basis to this audit,-which I think there is- then this audit must be performed. I am sure that the auditing process will not obstruct the TV station's operations." Beselia said.
“If this TV station will continue to act as it did during the previous years than I am not going to finance it with money from my pocket." Deputy of the Europe Integration Committee Levan Berdzenishvili said.
Bedzenishvili also denied rumors about GPB's possible merger with TV9. UNM member Goka Gabashvili said that a representative from the government recently met with GPB's Board of Directors to discuss a possible merger between GPB and the Ivanishvili-owned channel.
President Mikheil Saakashvili has also weighed in on the issue. He stated that the extensive audit currently conducted by the Revenue Service is interfering in GPB's activities. “The interference with GPB is completely unacceptable. This a threat directed against free media.” Saakashvili stated.
According to Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri GBP is around 4 million GEL in debt.