GPB should provide main platform for political debates and overcome partisan games
Less than two months ahead the presidential elections, the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), once again, is at the center of politically charged allegations and developments.
We believe it is of key importance for the GPB to provide a forum for political debates in the pre-election period where the candidates can present their programs and face the professional scrutiny of reporters. This will allow viewers to make an informed decision about who deserves their vote.
Last week, the GPB’s Board launched procedures to dismiss the General Director, Giorgi Baratashvili. The Board claims that Baratashvili has not provided timely and satisfactory responses to questions concerning the programming and the budgeting of the broadcaster. Baratashvili had been fired by the Board in March, but was reinstated to his position in April after winning a court appeal against his dismissal.
Another controversy surrounds the possible cancellation of political talk shows hosted by Eka Kvesitadze and David Paichadze. The GPB’s management has stated that Kvesitadze’s Aktsentebi and Paichadze’s Dialogue shows may be cancelled, but that a final decision has yet to be made, and the two anchors would, in any case, remain employees of the GPB and be considered as potential hosts for an upcoming new political show. The two anchors are known for their critical views of the government, and are perceived by parts of society as biased in favour of the United National Movement. Their criticism of the current government is thus seen as a violation of the concept of political neutrality. The GPB’s management will need to provide solid and impartial argumentation to justify the closure of these programs; otherwise, questions will arise concerning political bias of the management itself.
We think that the current confusion and disputes are negatively affecting not only the reputation of the public broadcaster but may also affect the pre-election environment in general. The GPB’s management and its Board should do their best to ensure pluralism. The GPB’s leadership and its staff need to serve the public, not politics. Furthermore, politicians need to provide the GPB with the full freedom to implement its mission.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Transparency International Georgia
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)