Parliament should ensure compiling the 9-member Board of Trusties free from political influence - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Parliament should ensure compiling the 9-member Board of Trusties free from political influence

20 January, 2014

Today, Parliament voted for 6 candidates for the membership of the Georgian Public Broadcaster Board of Trustees, of which three candidates: Lela Gaprindashvili, nominated by the Public Defender, Ninia Kakabadse, nominated by the United National Movement, and Gennady Geladze, nominated by the Supreme Council of Adjara did not receive the necessary number of votes.

The Parliament has approved the Board membership of the following candidates: Marina Muskhelishvili, nominated by the Public Defender, Ketevan Mskhiladze, nominated by the United National Movement, and Natela Sakhokia, the candidate of the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority.

The Adjara Supreme Council, the Public defender, the Parliament majority, and political parties outside the Parliament can re-submit their own candidates to the Parliament for approval within 10 days. If this time again neither of the candidates receives the required number of votes, the candidate obtaining the greatest number of votes (but no less than one-third of the listed members) shall be considered elected, otherwise a new competition will have to be announced.

Staffing of the GPB Board of Trustees was put into stalemate after the parliamentary majority and the minority failed to propose their own 3 candidates each as prescribed by the law, as a result of which the Parliament voted for 6 instead of 9 candidates.

Of particular concern is that the members of the GPB Trustee Selection Competition Commission set up in the Parliament and approved by the Chairman of the Parliament viewed  this fact as artificial deceleration of the process. Importantly, the Commission is composed of media and civil society representatives. According to them, the political forces are still trying to keep the public broadcaster under control. Moreover, one of the Commission members, Zviad Coridze believes  that both the majority and the minority in the Parliament "had a shortage of candidates in their lists who they wished to use for this purpose and had a difficulty selecting people that could be brought under political pressure."

Given almost a decade-long crisis at the Public Broadcaster, it is rattable that neither this time was it possible to ensure a smooth process of staffing the board free of political speculations. Forming a politically impartial and professionally diverse board of trustees must primarily be in the interests of the Parliament, especially when, at this point, there seem to be no obstacles to achieving this.

We call on Parliament, both the majority and the minority, to follow and respect the law on Broadcasting as well as the spirit in which the amendments concerning the formation of the Board of Trustees were entered into the law in 2013. Transparency International Georgia believes that it is extremely important that the ongoing process of the Board staffing continues in full compliance with the law. In the event additional information is required about the candidates, it is recommended to hold consultations with the Competition Commission of the Parliament to make sure the 9 candidates from the list submitted by the Commission (despite the violation of the terms) are finally nominated.

A brief description of the selection of candidates for the Board of Trustees

Following a ten-day work, the 9-member special parliamentary Commission selected 27 candidates out of 68 applicants and proposed them to the Parliament, the Adjara Supreme Council and the Public Defender. The candidates were selected based on their professional experience, after a live discussion of their concepts for the Public Broadcaster development and as a result of televised debates.

Pursuant to the Law on Broadcasting and taking into account the current composition of the Parliament, two candidates are nominated by the Public Defender and one is proposed by the Adjara Supreme Council, while the parliamentary majority and minority nominate three candidates each.

Out of these 27 candidates, the Adjara Supreme Council nominated Gennady (Geno ) Geladze (under the law, the Public Defender and the Adjara Supreme Council are granted the priority to nominate candidates first). Mr. Geladze is a lawyer by profession and is implementing several EU-funded projects in Adjara; since 2013, he has been a member of the West Georgia local Council of the Ministry of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance. Two candidates were nominated in the Parliament by the Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili.  From the list of 27 candidates, he chose Lela Gaprindashvili, associate Professor at Tbilisi State University department of Social and Political Sciences, and Marina Muskhelishvili, director of the Center for Social Studies NGO. Ms. Muskhelishvili has served as an advisor to the General Director of the Public Broadcaster since September 2013.

After the Adjara Supreme Council and the Public Defender proposed their candidates, the United National Movement nominated their own two instead of three candidates: Ninia Kakabadze, a journalist and film critic, and Ketevan Mskhiladze, the editor of the "Tabula"’ magazine's English edition and a co-founder of Media Development Foundation NGO.

Neither the Georgian Dream coalition made full use of its quota determined by the law, nominating only one candidate - Natela Sakhokia. Ms. Sakhokia is an expert in computer systems and has been a member of the Public Broadcaster's "Advisory Group" since September 2013.