Parliament passed with 76 votes to 10 with its first reading on November 13 GD-proposed bill envisaging starting formation of a new board of the Georgian Public Broadcaster a month earlier than originally planned.
GPB’s current board of trustees became defunct after two out of its remaining nine sitting members (six seats in 15-seat board were already vacant) stepped down earlier last month. With remaining seven sitting members the board became incapable to take any decision as at least eight members are required to be present at a session.
This summer Parliament amended law on broadcasting, introducing, among other issues, new rule of composition of the board; according to those amendments the sitting board should remain till January 1, 2014.
But new amendment offers to launch procedures for formation of the new board from November 25, 2013. Sponsors of the bill cite “crisis” in the sitting board as the reason behind the initiative to speed up formation of the new board.
UNM parliamentary minority group is against of the proposed bill, instead offering to change the law in a way that would make remaining members of the current board eligible to hold sessions. UNM lawmakers accused GD of creating this “crisis” situation in GPB by “forcing” some of the board members to resign.
New rule, introduced as a result of legislative amendments this summer, excludes president from the process of selecting board members. Previously the president was selecting three candidates for each of the 15 seats in the board and then the parliament confirming one of those three candidates for each seat.
According to the new rule, which will go into force from November 25 after the amendment is passed with its second and third reading by the Parliament, number of seats will be reduced to nine.
Three members will have to be nominated by the parliamentary majority and three by the parliamentary minority group and other lawmakers who are not part of either parliamentary majority or minority groups. Candidates for these six seats should be selected through competition by a nine-member commission, which should be established specifically for this purpose by the Parliamentary Chairman and should be composed of civil society representatives. The commission should nominate at least three candidates for each seat in GPB’s board of trustees.
Two members of GPB’s board have to be selected by the Public Defender through competition and one member will be nominated by the local legislative body of Adjara Autonomous Republic.
Meanwhile, newly elected board of local public broadcasting in Adjara Autonomous Republic has also been embroiled in controversy.
Under the law three members of five-seat board should be selected by the majority in Adjara’s local parliament and two members by the minority group in the legislative body. Last month three seats were filled by candidates named by GD majority group of Adjara’s parliament; two remaining stets were eligible to candidates nominated by UNM, but on November 5 candidates named by GD were approved by the local parliament. GD lawmakers from the Georgian Parliament, including parliamentary chairman Davit Usupashvili, said that it was a violation of the law which should now be resolved by court.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, who visited Georgia this week, expressed concern over the way how the board of Adjara’s public TV was composed.
“It is an unfortunate decision, which challenges the rule of law and among other things undermines the integrity of the public broadcaster,” she said.
“Media freedom is high on agenda of the Georgian authorities, and I am grateful for their readiness to continue co-operation with my Office,” said Mijatović, who met with parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili and Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze.