“The growing influence of the government and of individuals affiliated with former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is a matter of concern for us and contradicts to the mission of the public broadcaster in a democratic society,” a group of 29 civil society organizations wrote in their statement on the publicly-funded Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB.)
The November 2 statement slammed “the nepotistic” practice of hiring at GPB and noted that Ivanishvili-affiliated individuals “have been appointed to key positions,” which “raises legitimate questions in the civil society sector.”
The organizations pointed at the election of Vasil Maglaperidze, former employee of Bera Ivanishvili’s (Bidzina Ivanishvili’s son) GDS TV, to the post of GPB’s Director General, as well as the “mass hiring” of former GDS staff.
“Recent reports have demonstrated that the public broadcaster’s editorial policy and its criticism towards the government had been softened,” the CSOs noted, adding that the company’s August decision to pull out the already selected TV programs was “obscure.”
The organizations also touched upon the GPB-related legislative proposal initiated by the Parliament in June, which, according to CSOs, “significantly reduces GPB’s transparency and openness, increases the powers of GPB management, weakens the Board of Trustees, creates risk of sham deals, and deteriorates employee protection mechanisms.”
The CSOs commented on the public tender, which was announced by GPB on October 10 and suspended on November 1. “The tender worth GEL 346 098 announced by GPB for hiring the lighting services for one of the broadcaster’s new programs was won by a company, owned by Bera Ivanishvili and operated by Goga Khaindrava, a close associate of [Bidzina] Ivanishvili,” reads the statement.
The organizations added that Bera Ivanishvili’s follow-up statement, where he explained he was unaware of the tender and expressed readiness to gift the lighting equipment free of charge, “created additional questions on how the company management decided to participate in the tender without the owner’s consent, as well as whether the public television can accept an expensive gift and simultaneously maintain impartial editorial policy under the current management.”
“Moreover, the company owned by Goga Khaindrava won a tender worth GEL 484 000 announced for producing television series and purchasing its equipment,” the CSOs also wrote.
The civil society organizations then called on the Parliament “to show its interest” over the GPB-related developments and hold a public discussion on the matter.