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Baratashvili appeals to court; competence of board in question

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, March 6
The position of the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) General Director is vacant again. After dismissing Giorgi Baratashvili later on Monday, the decision of the Board of Trustees became the subject of controversy among the GPB staff.

Calling the board’s decision “illegal,” the former general director said he will file a lawsuit against the board and prove his innocence. “This television company has a good staff and several people should not be defining its fate,” Baratashvili said on Tuesday.

Some GPB employees expressed their mistrust towards the Board members. Goga Chartolani, one of GPB’s program producers, thinks the reasons why the board has dismissed Baratashvili are vague.

Producer of GPB’s Second Channel, Dodo Shonava, said a lot of employees have left GPB after the reorganization. However, the Board of Trustees had not reacted to any of these cases, while removal of the head of the news department Kharuna Berdzenishvili caused the board’s concern.

Stressing that they are dropping the boundaries with any political team and only ask for public support, Shonava said Khatuna Berdzenishvili used privileged rights at GPB and allegedly was loyal to the former government. She hoped that the proposed changes to the Law on Broadcasting would become the basis for establishing a Board of Trustees that would take responsibility over any possible crisis, as well as enable the general director to manage the company properly.

Shonava said the news policy of GPB should be oriented not on the scandals, but provide information, raise public awareness and support peacekeeping. Shonava said the public should raise the issue of the board’s responsibility and news policy under Berdzenishvili’s management.

Meanwhile, member of GPB’s Board of Trustees, Giorgi Meladze, said the form of confrontation between Berdzenishvili and Baratashvili was not matching the standards of GPB. He said GPB often used to be the target of aggression as “it has to deal with the storm of political hysteria.” Meladze thinks that the proposed change to the Law on Broadcasting is used as a form of pressure on the board members.

In a statement released on March 4, the Board of Trustees said their decision to dismiss the general director had followed the controversies between Baratashvili and Berdzenishvili who had accused the director of interfering into the editorial policy. In particular, Berdzenishvili said Baratashvili was against releasing a story about the educational background of the Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani.

The statement of the board reads that their main obligation is to protect the dignity of GPB, monitor the processes within the TV Company and ensure its transparency, thus the board listened to both sides and expressed mistrust towards the general director. However, board member Nino Danelia finds the decision “irresponsible” considering the fact that Baratshvili was out of the country.

Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) member Natia Kapanadze thinks that Baratashvili’s dismissal would negatively affect the critical situation at GPB. She said when Baratashvili became the general director in December of 2012; the situation at GPB was already critical, which the board should have considered.

UNM MP Sergo Ratiani welcomed the board’s “independent” decision, which according to Ratiani, would protect GPB from any political interference. On the other hand, Georgian Dream member and the Chairman of Parliamentary Legal Issues Committee, Vakhtang Khmaladze, thinks the board should play the game of public not of majority or opposition.