Media Coalition Slams Public Broadcaster for Failing to Uphold Independence

The Media Advocacy Coalition, a press freedom watchdog, issued a statement on December 19 regarding the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) decision to cancel several of its TV programs. According to the Media Coalition, the cancellation of the TV programs without a proper explanation reinforces the suspicions that GPB is under the influence of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party, and that it is “not fulfilling its mission to be a politically neutral, objective and unbiased media, and is unprepared for the 2024 parliamentary elections.”

The Media Coalition notes that GPB management decided to cancel the TV programs without any public explanation, and that its later statement said only that the changes were made because of financial restructuring. The Media Coalition questions why the financial restructuring was cited as the main reason for the cancellation of the TV programs, given that the current model of financing the public broadcaster and its budget will not change significantly for two years, until 2026.

“The Public Broadcaster one again did not or could not meet the minimum standards of accountability,” – reads the statement, referring to the cancellation of one of its flagship shows, in particular the “Unbearable Lightness of Gorgiladze” [Gorgiladzis Autaneli Simsubuke], which drew public criticism because the host of the show is known for his critical views on some of the policies of the ruling Georgian Dream party, including the so-called “Russian Law”.

The Media Coalition stressed that the independence of the Public Broadcaster is guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia. The statement says: “Broadcaster’s programs must be unbiased, objective and pluralistic, serving the interests of the Georgian society and promoting the democratic discourse.” It adds that the cancellation of programs hosted by government critics “reduces the quality of trust in the broadcaster and strengthens doubts of its political bias”.

The Coalition recalls with concern previous events surrounding the public broadcaster, including the abolition of the Adjara Television Advisory Council and an attempt to change the Public Broadcaster’s funding model. The Coalition notes that although the funding model was not changed as originally proposed, and the model was ultimately changed in a different way, “this decision was also not the subject of public discussion and wider consensus.”

The Coalition says that the actions of the public broadcaster’s management and the ruling party have paved the way for political interference and manipulation of the broadcaster. “Television is not functioning as a truly independent and accountable media, it is under the influence of the government, which is frightening in view of the upcoming crucial parliamentary elections in 2024,” the statement reads.

The Media Coalition urges the Director General of GPB and the Board of Trustees “to ensure a pluralistic and objective information policy, transparency in media operations, genuine accountability to society and its participation in dialogue.

The watchdog also calls on the ruling Georgian Dream party “to stop interfering in media activities, discrediting the idea of public broadcasting, and to promote the creation of a pluralistic environment in the country.”

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


Back to top button