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Public TV Board Chair Resigns
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 May.'08 / 14:30

Irakli Tripolski, who several years ago was head of the Tbilisi-based Channel 9,  resigned three months after appointment. Photo: InterPressNews

Irakli Tripolski, the chairman of the board of trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcaster has resigned, citing “biased reporting” of the public TV.

“Law on public broadcasting says that the public TV should be objective and cover all the developments taking place in the country appropriately, but that is not happening,” Tripolski told Civil.Ge on May 27. “I do not see that the public TV is objective and I have no power to change anything so I decided to resign. I have already informed Board members about my decision.”

Tripolski said that he took the decision after the public TV’s “biased coverage” of the May 26 protest rally of the opposition.

In an interview with the daily Rezonansi, which was recorded before Tripolski decided to resign, the ex-chairman of the public TV board said: “I and several other members of the board confirm that the public TV was biased in covering [May 26] events. Covering the protest rally with only 50-second long story is absolutely unacceptable. A viewer, who was receiving information only from the public TV, could not have created real impression about what was going on.”

Tripolski became chairman of the new board of public TV in late February, after it was agreed between the opposition and the authorities to reshuffle the previous board. Five members out of nine-member board were nominated by the authorities and remaining four by the opposition, including Tripolski. The new board appointed Levan Kubaneishvili on the post of the general director of the public TV with five votes to four, replacing Tamar Kintsurashvili.

Meanwhile, the opposition coalition, which now includes eight parties, held a protest rally outside the Georgian Public Broadcaster on May 27, complaining about what they called the public TV’s biased reporting.

After making speeches at the rally, several opposition leaders, including Giorgi Khaindrava, Salome Zourabichvili, Zviad Dzidziguri and Davit Saganelidze, went inside the GPB building and marched into the general director Levan Kubaneishvili’s office accusing him of fulfilling the authorities’ instructions.

“I want to tell that Kintsurashvili [ex-director general of the GPB] had to resign after the people demanded it because it was the Saakashvili’s television; but nothing has been changed here since then; nothing has been changed here after your appointment,” Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party, part of the eight-party bloc, told Kubaneishvili. “You are working for you boss – Mikheil Saakashvili; and by yesterday’s coverage [the opposition’s protest rally] you have put an end to the public TV.”

“Do not talk like this, please tone down rhetoric and talk without emotions,” Kubaneishvili responded. He also told opposition leaders that the public TV allocated total of 39 minutes to the opposition’s protest rally in its news bulletins on May 26. GPB has news once in an hourly and main, primetime, evening news at 8pm.

Kubaneishvili also said that allegations about public TV being biased “are ridiculous.”

He also said that the opposition leader’s action to march into his office and accuse the TV of bias was “a typical pressure on the public TV, pressure on media.”

"This TV channel will not come under the influence of any political group," Kubaneishvili added.

Before marching into the public TV general director’s office, the opposition leaders addressed a small protest rally outside the television station’s premises in downtown Tbilisi.

“It was a complete dishonesty what Georgian media was doing in the pre-election period. Georgian media, which is not independent and is subordinated to the authorities, has played a serious role in ballot rigging,” Zviad Dzidziguri said. “Among others, I should distinguish the Georgian Public Broadcaster, which is incorrectly called public broadcaster. Within past three months it worked as Saakashvili’s broadcaster. So, this television should be renamed if it continues working like this.”

“What happened in Tbilisi yesterday is unknown for the viewers in the provinces, because the only TV channel which was broadcasting the rally was Kavkasia TV and as you know, Kavkasia is broadcasting only in Tbilisi,” Salome Zourabichvili said.

The opposition leaders also demanded resignation of the public TV general director and allocation of at least one hour live airtime for the opposition leaders.

The opposition has also welcomed the decision of Irakli Tripolski to resign. “It is absolutely clear, that when such an honest person, fails to work in this television and resigns, it means that the state control and state management have been established there,” Gia Tortladze, an individual member of the eight-party opposition coalition, said at the rally outside the public TV.

OSCE/ODIHR-led international election observation mission said in its preliminary conclusions on May 21 parliamentary elections that that “despite the pluralistic media environment, most outlets remain under strong influence from their owners and political patrons.”

“As such, all five main TV channels [GPB, Rustavi 2 TV, Mze TV, Adjara TV, Kavkasia TV] were under some influence from candidates and political parties, which was an obstacle to covering all election subjects in a nondiscriminatory manner as provided by law. This resulted in campaign news coverage lacking balance on all monitored TV stations, apart from public TV, with the UNM [ruling party] receiving the most coverage on almost all stations,” the report noted.

It also said that during the media monitoring of the last six weeks of the election campaign, public TV devoted similar proportions of its political and election primetime news coverage to the opposition coalition - 18% and the ruling party – 17%.

“While the ruling party was given overwhelmingly positive coverage, the coverage of the main opposition bloc was mainly neutral. The biggest share, however, was devoted to the President and the Government (together 32 per cent) with an overwhelmingly positive tone,” the report reads.

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