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Parliamentary Assembly concerned over the Georgian Public Broadcaster

By Ana Robakidze
Wednesday, January 30
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a new resolution on the state of media freedom in Europe, once again reminding the member states that “freedom of expression and information constitutes a cornerstone of good governance and thriving democracy” and every state is obliged to ensure the above-mentioned freedoms under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The resolution reveals and condemns several violations of media freedom and rights of journalists in several countries, including Belarus, Turkey and Russia. It welcomes several positive amendments in media laws adopted in Hungary.

The Parliamentary Assembly also focused its attention on Georgia and the Georgian public Broadcaster. It is worth noting that Georgia was not mentioned in the original draft resolution. However, it appears in two paragraphs of the final text that was adopted. Giorgi Kandelaki from the parliamentary minority says the amendments to the resolution were initiated by the PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.

Representative of the Georgian Dream Coalition, PM Levan Berdezenishvili says that the amendments were made according the initiative of members of the United National Movement.

The assembly is concerned that the replacement of the senior staff of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) may serve “to influence the political orientation of those broadcasters.” PACE is also dissatisfied with the initiation of Prime Minister Ivanishvili. “In this regard, it is particularly alarming that the Georgian Prime Minister suggested merging the Georgian public service broadcaster with the private broadcaster TV9 owned by his wife and amending the Georgian law on broadcasting.” The resolution says.

The resolution expresses concern over the fact that Georgian financial inspectors were interested in GPB and the government adopted “controversial amendments to the Law on Broadcasting.”

Former chair of the GPB board of trustees Irakli Tripolski released an open letter in response to the resolution. In the letter, Tripolski is surprised that CoE failed to verify some important information such as the fact that Parliament of Georgia had made no legislative amendments to the Georgian Law on Broadcasting and that GPB stopped funding TV Company PIK, consequently the TV staff were unemployed, having addressed the Chair of the Parliament of Georgia to launch investigation. Tripolski also speaks about the debt GPB owes the state and asks the question “Can you cite from recent European history this kind of approach to the expenditure of state funds by any state official that would not become grounds for investigation and responsibility?” He also would like to know whether CoE considers it to be normal that “members of the GPB Board of Trustees have been selected by President Mikheil Saakashvili and after a formal discussion approved by his parliamentary majority.”

Executive Director of the Georgian Council of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, Tamar Kordzaia thinks that the resolution should be accepted as a preventive measure and can serve as a warning for any government.

Kordzaia agrees with the part of the resolution regarding the GPB's merger with TV9. However, she told Liberali that probably PACE is not fully informed on the matter, as the initiative was reacted too negatively by society and the issue is completely closed at the moment.