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The News in Brief

Friday, March 21
Opposition parties unite ahead of local government elections

Georgian non-parliament opposition Christian-Democratic Movement party is joining the Democratic Movement – United Georgia party, led by the country’s ex-parliament speaker and presidential candidate Nino Burjanadze.

According to Christian-Democrat leader Giorgi Akhvlediani, his party and Nino Burjanadze’s movement would form a coalition for the upcoming local government elections scheduled to be held on June 15 this year.

Political experts named the New Rights party among the parties that might join the forming coalition. One of the party’s leaders Mamuka Katsitadze confirmed New Rights had participated in the negotiation and supported the idea of a non-parliament opposition union.

Christian-Democrats are known to support Georgia’s pro-Western course and its aspirations to join NATO. On the contrary, many consider Burjanadze as a pro-Russian politician skeptical to the Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgians switch off phones one hour to protest wiretapping

In Georgia, campaigners are asking people to switch off their mobile phones for one hour on Friday to protest illegal wiretapping.

The campaign ‘This Affects You Too – They Still Listen to Us’ envisages turning off mobile phones every Friday from 13:00 to 14:00, until Parliament adopts a legislative package against illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping.

The campaign, which is made up of many NGOs, states that the current practice should be changed and legislative standards should be improved.

“We, the participants of the campaign, will turn off our phones every Friday. We suggest that citizens who wish for the current practice of illegal wiretapping to be changed do the same,” a joint statement reads.

On Wednesday, ‘This Affects You Too – They Still Listen to Us’ organized demonstrations in Tbilisi, Gori, Rustavi, Batumi, Ozurgeti and other cities in Georgia. Demonstrators called on all majoritarian members of parliament to support changing the Criminal Procedure Code so it regulates eavesdropping.

Eka Gigauri, head of Transparency International Georgia, said mobile operators should only allow covert wiretapping after permission by a judge.

“Also, it should be determined in what cases the government should listen to a person, and a group that should be wiretapped must be defined too,” Gigauri said. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

France’s Hollande to visit Georgia on May 13

French President Francois Hollande will visit Georgia on May 13, Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said on Wednesday. Panjikidze said the schedule and other details of the visit are still being put together.

Panjikidze said also that other world leaders are coming to Georgia in the Spring including Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, on May 14, while Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission is visiting on June 13.

Also the presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan will visit Georgia in May. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Parliament approves Georgian Public Broadcaster competition group

Georgian Parliament has approved a competition committee that will select people to fill the remaining vacancies on the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) Board of Trustees.

The approved group of people were nominated for the role earlier but were refused.

They have been tasked to decide who will be selected as members of the GPB Board. Those interested in standing for the Board have until March 26 to send in an application.

The competition comes after Parliament failed twice to fully compose the Board since discussions began in late December.

As the Board of Trustees was not recruited and the 2014 budget was not approved, the GPB’s working process was delayed.

The competition committee members are: journalists Ia Antadze and Nino Bekishvili, Civil Development Agency executive director Zviad Devdariani, lawyer Natia Kapanadze, Regional Broadcasters Association executive director Natia Kuprashvili, head of Public Movement "Multinational Georgia" Arnold Stefanian, philosopher Zaza Shatirishvili, journalist Zviad Koridze and philologist Tamaz Jologua.

This group of people, who were selected by Parliament and are comprised of media and civil society representatives, was widely hailed as transparent and professional. Earlier, the rejection of most of the candidates selected caused many media and civil society groups to protest.

The procedure for selecting new GPB Board members will be held in two stages. Firstly, candidates will be selected in accordance with their qualifications and they will discuss the concept of GPB’s development before taking part in a public interview.

In total nine trustees must be chosen for the GPB Board. Two will be named by the Ombudsman, three by the Parliamentary majority, three by the Parliamentary minority (1/4 of MPs) and one by the Supreme Court of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara.

The amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, upon which the Board of the GPB is being formed, have been approved by the Georgian Parliament after a three-month discussion in May 2013.

The amendments were initiated by the Georgian Dream coalition. The changes are believed to ensure more financial transparency for television broadcasters. (Agenda.Ge)

US Ambassador meets Georgian leaders

The US Ambassador in Georgia met with the country’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and discussed the follow up results of the Georgian delegation’s official visit to Washington last month.

Richard Norland and the Georgian leader have also been discussing ways to further deepen future cooperation between Georgia and the US.

Norland called the visit "very successful”.

In recent days Norland and the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Georgia Niels Scott met with President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

Norland praised Margvelashvili’s recent visit to Afghanistan where he met Georgian soldiers participating in the NATO-led ISAF mission and reviewed the operative management centre.

The US Ambassador believed the Georgian President had an interesting vision on the country’s foreign policy, including possible risks that were reinforced by the situation in Ukraine.

The US Ambassador also highlighted the reforms Georgia has put in place as the country prepares to integrate with the European Union. (Agenda.Ge)