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Controversy continues around GPB

By Keti Arjevanidze
Friday, March 8
Georgian Public Broadcaster's (GPB) Board of Trustees held a meeting on March 7th to review its decision regarding the dismissal of the GPB's General Director Giorgi Baratashvili. GPB’s board did not accept the proposal by GPB's employees to return Baratshvili to his former position as director.

According to the Head of GPB's Board of Trustees Levan Gakheladze, the board could not find any "mechanism" that would allow them to vote again on Baratashvili's dismissal. Gakheladze stressed that the post of general director is vacant and the search for a new general director has begun. Gakheladze added that only the courts can overturn the board's decision.

GPB’s employees' staff initiative group also attended the meeting but they soon left in protest of the board of trustee's decision. According to the staff initiative group the board's decision was unreasonable and they are going to “fight for the truth.” They also claimed that they are going to appeal the decision in the courts and have sent all the video-audio materials of last two meetings to Parliament for discussion.

The Parliamentary Committee of Education and Science have already discussed the proposed bill about broadcasting. The discussion was headed by the Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili who reiterated that Parliament’s aim is to make GPB free from any political pressure and transparent for citizens. He underscored that GPB needs to be free from the UNM-dominated press.

A bill proposed on December 26th, 2012 would changes the rules for selecting GPB's Board of Trustees. The number of trustees would be reduced from 15 to nine and would no longer be selected by the President. Instead, three board members would be nominated by the parliamentary majority, three by the parliamentary minority, two by the Public Defender and one member by the Head of Ajara TV. According to the bill's author this structure will ensure the board of trustees' impartiality. Voting for the proposed bill will take place next week.

After the debate several politicians spoke about the proposed bill. UNM member Zurab Japaridze member thinks that the proposed bill is politically motivated and aims to make GPB subordinate to the current government.

Meanwhile Georgian Dream member Eliso Chapidze thinks that her party wants to end government control of the media, which occurred under the former UNM administration. She stressed that GPB must be free from political pressure and belong to Georgian citizens. She explained that this is the essence of the proposed bill.

Media analyst Lasha Tughushi spoke about the problems existing at GPB, stressing the lack of financial transparency and an inability to properly manage the company's finances. According to media analyst Ia Antadze if Parliament accepts the proposed bill the crisis at GPB will be over. Antadze supports a complete de-politicization of the TV company.