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GPB’s board of trustees discusses decision of director’s dismissal

By Keti Arjevanidze
Thursday, March 7
Board of trustees of Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) will review its decision regarding the dismissal of Giorgi Baratashvili from the position of general director, Levan Gakheladze, Head of GPB’s Board of Trustees, informed after a meeting with the initiative group consisting of GPB’s employees on February 5. The initiative group insists on restoring Baratashvili, demanding answers concerning Baratshvili’s dismissal.

According to Gakheladze in two days, the board’s council will be held to discuss the issue properly.

Board member Mamuka Pachuashvili said that the meeting will be held inevitably and will feature intensive consultations; although he added that the decision by the board is unpredictable.

GPB’s producer Giorgi Kartvelishvili thinks that during the meeting, the television company's staff did not hear the arguments from the board. According to him, the decision was hurried, thus it caused a crisis. “Before there was no crisis; there was a confrontation between two people (Berdzenishvili-Baratashvili). In order not to extend the crisis, we demanded that the board take the next step– restore Baratashvili to his post,” Kartvelishvili explained.

Kartvelishvili also added that in case the board does not agree on the proposal, they will start collecting signatures and ask parliament to discharge the board.

Baratshvili himself has planned to appeal the board’s decision in the city court.

Meanwhile, Khatuna Berdzenishvili, former head of GPB’s news department speaks about the political pressure on the board and appeals to international society for help.

Political pressure was among the issues mentioned during the meeting. Initiative group members became interested in whether there was any kind of pressure placed on the board while taking the decision of Baratshvili’s dismissal, as he had previously removed Berdzenishvili. However, the board denied any pressure.

The board explained that Baratashvili’s dismissal was caused by his inability to settle the tense situation at the TV station and “inability to regulate the unhealthy climate.”

According to the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), the board of trustees did not present enough arguments for their decision and there are questions regarding the issue.

Davit Berdzenishvili, a Georgian Dream member, excluded interference from outside in the board’s decision. Berdzenishvili assumed that the board is not free from the obligations to the previous government.

“First we have to ask the public what kind of broadcaster they want,” Georgian Dream member Eliso Chapidze said. She worried about the crisis that existed in the GPB and stated that parliament delayed expressing its opinion regarding the topic.

Levan Bezhashvili, a United National Movement (UNM) member, requested that they exclude any kind of interference in GPB’s activity despite being in government or in opposition.

Media analyst Lasha Tughushi stressed the necessity of the changes in the Law on Broadcasting; he believes that the only way out of the crisis is to implement the changes in broadcasting law. According to him, the current board is not able to execute their duties.

According to the US Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, the US is intensively observing the situation at the GPB. He emphasized freedom of press and media. He avoided in-depth assessment, saying that it is up to Georgians to draw their conclusions.

On March 7, parliament will discuss the changes in the law about broadcasting, which includes the rules for formatting the board of trustees, which will be reduced from 15 to 9.

On the post of the general director a two-staged contest has been launched. Deadline for applications is March 14.