For Whom the Bell Tolls: Demands For Vasil Maghlaperidze’s Resignation

A six-point plan to “resolve the crisis” at the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has been published by over 70 Georgian NGOs and prominent cultural figures — it includes a call for the resignation of Vasil Maghlaperidze, the Head of GPB. 

In a statement realized on February 9, signatories including the Open Society Georgia Foundation, Georgia’s Reform Associates (GRASS), rights group EMC, and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information voiced their concerns over the “deep institutional crisis in the GPB”, stating that the cost to taxpayers is undergoing annual increases while trust in the broadcaster is “critically low”.  

Announcing the start of “a movement for reforming the Public Broadcaster”, the statement said that, “Unfortunately, the Public Broadcaster fails to serve the interests of the public, is unable to fulfil its legal role; and acts instead as a media organization that is in service of political party interests.”

Furthermore, the statement called upon the Prime Minister to meet the group so that the demands and opinions could be presented and possible solutions discussed. Additionally, the statement also demanded GTB’s General Director and Board of Trustees to be summoned before Parliament at a public hearing where the extent to which GTB’s fulfilment of its legal obligations could be examined. 

The signatories believe that Maghlaperidze should resign due to the number of inconsistent and questionable decisions taken by GPB during his tenure. These included a “vague plan to reform the broadcaster; implementing a closed staffing policy, whereby journalists from the former Prime Minister’s TV station were employed through uncompetitive procedures; suspicious tenders; failure to fulfil programme priorities; assuming an editorial policy that was loyal towards the government; closing the broadcaster’s European Office, etc.”

The statement also demands that an external audit be conducted to examine GPB’s conduct over the past twelve months, due to the identification of significant managerial and financial transgressions by the State Audit Office. 

The signatories also called for parliament to not overrule the President’s veto of amendments to the Law on Public Broadcasting, claiming that the “amendments initiated by the Public Broadcaster reduce its openness and transparency, increase the risk of corruption, and significantly damage the advertising market.”

By Máté Földi 

12 February 2018 12:53