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Liberty Institute Defends Public TV
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 Feb.'08 / 12:39

The Liberty Institute, an influential Georgian NGO, has accused both the opposition and the authorities, in particular Parliament and the parliamentary speaker, Nino Burjanadze, of “crude violations” of the law on public broadcasting.

Given the Liberty Institute’s close links to the Saakashvili’s administration, the criticism by the organization of the authorities is an extremely rare case.

“We have to remind the authorities and the opposition about the existence of the law on public broadcaster,” the Liberty Institute’s statement issued on February 9 reads. “We have to remind [them] that the public TV is not subordinate to the state and the authorities.”

The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has of late been at the centre of political controversy, with the opposition demanding the resignation of GPB General-Director Tamar Kintsurashvili and the appointment of a new GPB board of trustees by mutual agreement.

Kintsurashvili, before taking over at the GPB in 2005 for a six-year term, worked in the Liberty Institute, in charge of coordinating media programs.

“The dismissal of the general-director of the public TV should not be a matter of a deal between the authorities and the opposition; it is unacceptable for a democratic state,” the Liberty Institute said. “The authorities asked, or rather demanded, that the remaining members of the board of trustees resign in a statement made by the parliamentary chairperson [Nino Burjanadze]… Statements that an agreement had already been reached on the replacement of the public TV general director came as a complete surprise.”

The institute pointed out that legally the GPB general director can only be dismissed by a two-thirds majority vote of the board of trustees. The board no longer functions following the resignation of the three remaining members of the nine-member board last month. Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze a new board would be composed by the end of February.

“We call on Parliament, elected by us, to refrain from interfering in the activities of the public TV,” the Liberty Institute said.

Elene Tevdoradze, a lawmaker from the ruling party and chairperson of the parliamentary committee for human rights, told the Georgian daily Rezonansi that the Liberty Institute was trying to influence the GPB through Kintsurashvili. “So they should not be making this kind of statement,” she said.

Levan Berdzenishvili, a lawmaker from the opposition Republican Party, told Rezonansi that the Liberty Institute’s statement indicated that the influential group was still trying to maintain a grip on political processes. “The Liberty Institute itself was interfering in the public TV and they of course do not want to lose that lever,” he said. “We have witnessed many times how [Giga] Bokeria [a lawmaker from the ruling party, who also worked at the Liberty Institute] and [Levan] Ramishvili [head of the Liberty Institute] were interfering in GPB board.”

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