On January 23 the Parliament of Georgia voted, for the second time, to select the candidates of the Georgian Public Broadcaster's (GPB) Board of Trustees. As a result, only four candidates were selected for nine vacant positions.
We believe that relieving GPB from outside political pressure is one of the key challenges of Georgian democracy. Therefore, formation of the Board with professional, trustworthy and politically impartial candidates is the crucial stage of the whole process. These developments have gained considerable attention among the wider public, media and NGOs, which only further reaffirms the Importance of this process, as well as the diplomatic corps that welcomed the transparent work of the selection commission and stressed the necessity of selecting board members from the nominated 27 candidates.
We wish to underline that the selection commission gained significant trust within the society, mainly due to the fact that its activities were conducted in an open and transparent manner and in accordance with the legislative requirements. The quality of their work was reflected in the list of candidates (comprised of 27 individuals) submitted to the Parliament which offered great choice to the legislative branch and all the authorized subjects.
Taking into account the general mistrust towards democratic processes that the Georgian public has developed in the period of different governments, the selection process itself carries as much importance as the final outcome. Unfortunately the Parliament, considering how it handled the whole process, failed to avoid question marks on whether it has a willingness to free GPB from any political interference.
It is unfortunate that all these developments throughout the process - the statements by the ruling Coalition, soon after the selection commission was created, about the extension of the competition deadline to grant additional chance to other applicants, as well as the instances of withdrawn votes following the minority MPs nominations, the results of the second stage of voting where no attempt of a consensus was demonstrated among the entities - goes against the spirit of recent legal amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, that was supposed to ensure transparency and more pluralism of the public broadcaster on the basis of the consensus.
We urge the Parliament to conduct a new competition through the same selection commission, with a goal to reflect the later's trust in the final outcome of this process. Furthermore, we call on the Parliament to make the timely and effective decisions so the new Board of trustees is able to ensure a smooth functioning of the public broadcaster and the society has free and unlimited access to information about the country's political processed and other current events, including the upcoming local self-government elections.
Georgian Young Lawyers' Association
Transparency International Georgia
Non Governmental Organization "Cida"
Article 42 of the Constitution
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
Human Rights and Training and Monitoring Center
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Media Development Foundation