GDI Concerned Over Developments in the Georgian Public Broadcaster

Georgian Democracy Initiative expresses concern over the developments unfolding at the Georgian Public Broadcaster. Recent developments are alarming and undermine GPB’s reputation as the most balanced media corporation in the country. Lack of public and political attention towards this problem has contributed to deterioration of already complex state of affairs.

Several weeks ago the Chairman of GPB Board Emzar Goguadze, made a statement alleging pressure and threats from a specific officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Such a grave allegation from head of an independent body should have become basis for an immediate reaction from Georgia’s law enforcement agencies. By instantly addressing this alleged act of intimidation, the Government would have sent a clear message that ensuring continuity of GPB’s editorial independence is protected. Unfortunately, upon initiative of the Justice Ministry, inquiry of this case was enthrusted upon  the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Taking into account the fact that the alleged offender is in fact an officer of the State Security Service – an agency part of MIA – public trust towards investigation was somewhat undermined.

It is clear that the lack of proper reaction from the state only tempted others to intervene. Last week, more reports emerged of attempts to unduly influence the board members by representatives of the parliamentary majority specifically by forcing them to quit. Again, no reaction from relevant state institutions followed.

The Board members alleged that adviser to the Prime Minister Koka Kandiashvili has been actively and directly interfering with the editorial policy of the broadcaster in breach of its legally ensured independence.

Under the Georgian legislation, the Public Broadcaster is a legal entity of public law, created for the purposes of TV and radio broadcasting, on the basis of the Georgian legislation and based on state property and publicly funded. It is independent from the State and represents a legal entity of public law accountable to the public only. GPB’s officials and other employees are independent while exercising their duties and act in compliance with the law. Attempts to illegally influence their activities or to interfere into those are prohibited by the Georgian legislation.

Georgian Democracy Initiative addresses the Office of the Chief Prosecutor with the request to launch preliminary investigation on these facts as well as to apply instant measures in order to avoid any future possible attempts to influence members of Board. We also request the Chief Prosecutor to identify and bring to liability all relevant individuals.

GDI also appeals to different political forces, their leaders and supporters as well as members of legislative or executive branches of power to refrain from exerting any influence which could undermine GPB’s independence.