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GPB board selection remains in limbo

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 27
Georgia’s parliament once again failed to select a new board for the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB). During the second round of voting on January 23, parliament approved only 1 candidate named by the Public Defender, while the candidates named by the parliamentary minority and the Adjara Supreme Council did not receive enough votes.

In July 2013, the parliamentary chairperson announced a competition for GPB board members. A special commission consisting of NGO representative and the media selected 27 candidates, from which the parliament should have approved the top 9.

The parliamentary majority should have named 3 candidates, the (UNM) 3, Public Defender- 2, and the Adjara Supreme Council 1. However, the majority named just 1 and the minority 2. Finally, 6 candidates were voted on and three were approved: These were Natela Sakhokia (named by the Georgian Dream), Ketevan Mskhiladze (by the UNM) and Marina Muskhelishili (by the Public Defender).

During the second round of voting, the parliamentary majority did not name the 2 final candidates. The UNM named again Ninia Kakabadze and additionally, Darejan (Jana) Javakhishvili as their third candidate. Kakabadze once again failed to get support from the parliament, while Javakhishvili was not voted at all, as, according to the Parliamentary chairperson, her candidacy was raised through violation of time frames. Geno Geladze, whose candidacy was also once again named by the Supreme Council of Adjara, could not also receive support from the legislative body. The only candidate who has been confirmed was ombudsmen’s nominee Lela Gaprindashvili, a professor of philosophy at the Tbilisi State University and a gender specialist.

Coalition members explained that the parties inside the coalition were not unanimous. However, some NGOs doubt that the coalition wants its desired candidates on the board, and for achieving the aim another completion was needed.

Ninia Kakabadze is sure that now the coalition will inform its desirable candidates to participate in the completion and then confirm them.

Parliamentary minority members share the same aspiration. UNM MP Sergo Ratiani states that even the members of the coalition that voted for Kakabadze in the first round, did not support her during the second round.

Member of the coalition Vakhtang Khmaladze reiterates the process was democratic. He admits that various parties that comprise the coalition have different visions and could not agree on two candidates. Fellow members of the coalition Tina Khidasheli and Tamar Kordzaia responded to the UNM speculations. According to them, the UNM failed to mobilize and support its candidate.

“Only 51 votes were needed for confirmation of a candidate. There are 52 UNM MPs at the parliament and their being at the legislative body and voting would be enough for Kakabadze’s confirmation,” Khidasheli said.

The commission that was selected by the parliament to choose the candidates is not going to participate in the process a second time. Commission member Natia Kuprashvili stresses that the commission worked transparently and selected worthy candidates. “However, the process did not come to an end. The situation revealed what is going on at the parliament and in the media in Georgia,” Kuprashvili stated.

On January 24, an OSCE media freedom representative called on the Georgian authorities to ensure the effective functining of the public broadcaster. Dunja Mijatovic expressed disappointment at the inability of the Georgian Parliament to select new board members for the GPB.

“I call on the Georgian Parliament to make a timely decision,” Mijatovic said. “I believe the new board should revitalize the broadcaster and contribute to the free flow of information in the country.”

Mijatovic also said she is hopeful that the GPB will be an independent broadcaster, free from political and commercial influences.