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Channel 9 faces serious problems

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, December 3
The situation concerning Channel 9, currently owned by the wife of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, continues to grow more complicated. Tens of the channel’s employees have already left their jobs due to their disagreements with the new general director of the channel 9, Luba Eliashvili.

Several days ago, Ivanishvili emphasized that his family’s share in channel 9 creates discomfort for him.

“To rule out the criticism of my family’s links with the channel and the accusations that suggest the station is run by me, I have decided to handover the share. Debates are being held on which team this share can be handed over to,” Ivanishvili said.

Just after the statement made on November 29, Luba Eliashvili was appointed as the acting director general of Channel 9 after Kakha Bekauri’s resignation from this position.

Eliashvili, previously the deputy director general and currently coordinating news and political programs, has underscored that she is orchestrating the reorganization of the channel. It should be pointed out that after Eliashvili arrived at the channel, the channel’s governmental links was not lost. Eliashvili is wife of Shalva Shavgulidze, an active member of the Georgian Dream coalition in the parliament.

Soon after taking the new post, Eliashvili spoke on the fundamental changes being made to the channel. According to her, the former working style and manner of the channel was out of fashion.

“The TV Company that has been operating under the testing mode will switch to general broadcasting. The programming will be filled with movies and other programs,” Eliashvili stated.

After the first meeting with Eliashvili, several journalists immediately stated they would leave the TV channel. According to them, Eliashvili’s intentions and attitudes turned unacceptable for them and they also doubted the impartiality of the channel in the future.

Tamar Rukhadze, Channel 9’s newscast director; Irina Tevdorashvili, adviser of the director general on social-political issues; Irakli Absandze, regional newscast producer of Channel 9’ Vasil Maglaperidze, the deputy director general and presenter of “The Consilium” program; newscast journalists Lana Beridze, Malkhaz Chkadua, Giorgi Putkaradze and Imeda Daraselia and some others have all left the channel. All of them demanded the assurance of the editorial independence of the channel.

Due to the reorganization, many journalists of Info 9(Info 9 was founded by Channel 9 for regional coverage) have also lost their jobs.

“So far, all the decisions concerning the channel’s operational issues have been taken jointly and on a team basis involving all the participants. But now it has emerged that the TV broadcasting changes the format and no one knows who will prepare the programs,” Irakli Absandze said.

Vasil Maghlaperidze, emphasized that he could no longer find his place on channel 9.

“Even though I am the deputy director general of the channel, due to some unclear reasons, I have learned about the latest ongoing processes on the channel through news programs and from so-called informed individuals,” Maghlaperidze said.

Journalist, Giorgi Putkaradz, said that the journalists were told directly that their past actions were “snobbish” and that there should be “yellow materials” on channel as well.

“what snobbish standards are is unclear to me… I cannot see myself on a TV channel where the standard is taken as snobbism,” Putkaradze said.

PM Bidzina Ivanishvili has responded to the process stating that “everything is going to be fine with Channel 9 and that there is nothing strange about the ongoing situation.”

“I don’t think that everything is going to be fine with the channel, as he (Bidzina Ivanishvili) doesn’t have verifiable information, or he just hasn’t made out the meaning of the processes that, from my viewpoint, are unfit for the Georgian media,” Irakli Absandze stated.

In response, Eliashvili underscored that she will use sanctions against those journalists who have left the channel and announced this on the air.

“This is a violation of the rules and agreements. When one does not like something and openly states it on-air and leaves me without a program for some period of time unacceptable and against the rules,”Eliashvili, said.

Shorena Shaverdashvili, Editor-in-Chief of Liberali magazine, has suggested that Ivanishvili sell Channel 9 to her publishing group at a symbolic price of GEL 1.

“We have been working on the Georgian market for eight years now, and notwithstanding the various financial, political and human challenges, we have managed to maintain real independence and high professional standards,” Shaverdashvili states in her open letter to the PM.