Amendments to the Law on the Public Broadcaster were discussed at the Georgian Parliament on 2 May 2014. The bill was presented by Gia Zhorzholiani, Member of the Parliamentary Majority. According to these amendments, a new body will be added to the Public Broadcaster in the form of a Monitoring Council which will present recommendations to the Board of Trustees or the General Director in order to identify shortcomings in their work, require a hearing of the budget report presented at the joint meeting of the Regulatory and Advisory Councils and submit a proposal to the Georgian Parliament to declare no-confidence in the members of the Board of Trustees. In the case if the Monitoring Council considers that the Board of Trustees or the General Director did not have a proper response to problems encountered at the Public Broadcaster, they are entitled to a committee hearing at the Georgian Parliament. The Georgian Parliament approved the amendments on the same day.

Chiora Taktakishvili, Member of the Parliamentary Minority, addressed Gia Zhorzholiani regarding the aforementioned amendments and said: "According to these changes [about the Public Broadcaster], a new Monitoring Council will be established but the functions of this Council are advisory in nature. The Law on [the Public] Broadcaster already provided for the existence of the Advisory Council and Community Councils."

Gia Zhorzholiani did not agree with Chiora Taktakishvili and stated the following: “Current Community Councils under the existing Law [the Public] Broadcaster are those types of bodies which work according to certain topics or fields and, in the case of necessity, submit proposals to the Board of Trustees or other structures of the [Public] Broadcaster. Therefore, this institution differs from a new Monitoring Council.”

FactCheck

took interest in this issue and verified Chiora Taktakishvili’s statement.

According to the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre, the Georgian Parliament started a new phase in terms of reforming the Public Broadcaster in 2013. According to the amendments made to the Law, the selection rule for the members of the Board of Trustees, qualification requirements and the quantity were established differently. According to the old Law, the President selected candidates for the 15-member Board of Trustees through the process of competition and submitted the list to the Parliament for approval. According to the amendments, the Board of Trustees was composed of nine members. The Board members are still elected by the Parliament for a six-year term. Two candidates will be presented by the Public Defender’s Office, three by the Parliamentary Majority and three by more than one-third of the rest of the Members of the Parliament. The Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara will also present one Board member. One-third of the Board of Trustees is changed by rotation every two years.

According to the new regulations, the main controlling body of the Public Broadcaster and the current Board of Trustees should have been disbanded as soon as the Law entered into force.

An amendment was later made to this clause. According to the amendment, Articles 24, 25 and 26 of the Law should have entered into force from 1 January 2014. These are the Articles which would effect the dissolution of the current Board. Due to the fact that the enforcement of these Articles was delayed, the current Board worked until the end of the year. Also of note is that the term of office for four Board members expired at the end of 2013 while two positions of Trustees were vacant at that time. Accordingly, the Board was left with nine members (the term of office for four members was set to expire at the end of 2015 while the expiry date for five members was set at 2017). Due to these circumstances, the enactment of the Law did not dissolve the Board but only its majority. FactCheck

has previously reported about these issues.

Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media, published recommendations about the Law on the Public Broadcaster and the dissolution of its Board of Trustees. The new bill was evaluated in positive terms in the report. In addition, Mijatović presented an official letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia where she urged that the Board of Trustees should not be disbanded immediately since this would halt the work of the Public Broadcaster. According to her recommendations, the dissolution of the Board of Trustees from 1 January 2014 would be relatively more acceptable and a compromise option.

The former Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, vetoed the bill adopted by the Parliament in July 2013. The President had four remarks regarding the bill with the early termination of the authorities of the Board of Trustees among them. The Parliamentary Majority did not consider the President’s remarks and, accordingly, 1 January 2014 was set as the date for the dissolution of the Public Broadcaster.

Some members of the old Board of Trustees appealed to the Constitutional Court on 6 February 2014. The Board members appealed against those changes to the Law on Public Broadcaster which provided for the composition of the Board according to a new rule. The Court suspended the procedure for electing new members while it upheld the constitutional lawsuit and lifted those regulations of the Law which terminated the authorities of Board members before the end of their term.

According to the Law adopted on 2 May, seven old members of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster (Mamuka Pachuashvili, Davit Kandelaki, Zurab Davitashvili, Emzar Goguadze, Natalia Dvali, Giorgi Meladze and Nino Danelia), whose authorities in the Board were terminated, were moved to the newly-established Monitoring Council of the Board of Trustees.

According to the Law, the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster is one of the main bodies of the Broadcaster and its rank is above the newly-established Monitoring Council. For further information, FactCheck

reviewed the authorities of the Board of Trustees and the Monitoring Council.

The authorities of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster are as follows:

  1. Determines the programme priorities of the Public Broadcaster;
  2. Adopts the Regulations of the Public Broadcaster with the advice of the General Director which must ensure the editorial independence of relevant structural units and is authorized to make amendments to the Regulations;
  3. Adopts the budget of the Public Broadcaster with the advice of the General Director and approves the report of its performance and is authorized to make amendments to the budget;
  4. Hears the quarterly activity report of the Public Broadcaster;
  5. Gives consent to the General Director for transactions whose value exceeds 1% of the budget of the Public Broadcaster;
  6. Determines the conditions and amount of remuneration for the General Director;
  7. Approves the staff of the Public Broadcaster with the advice of the General Director and the salaries of the employees, the salary fund as well as the bonus fund and the limit amount for bonuses;
  8. Sets out the basic terms of the employment contract for staff of the Public Broadcaster;
  9. Appeals to the Supreme Court of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara about the issue of non-confidence towards the Advisory Council of Ajara TV and the Public Broadcaster radio.

According to the amendments made to the Law on the Public Broadcaster, current Trustees of the Public Broadcaster become the members of the Monitoring Council. They are unable to make any specific decisions due to the fact that the Monitoring Council is a temporary body and is authorised to:

  1. Present recommendations to the Board of Trustees and/or the General Director in order to identify shortcomings in their work;
  2. Present recommendations to the Board of Trustees about measures to be taken in the case of financial irregularities;
  3. Present a proposal to the Board of Trustees about the dismissal of the General Director from his/her office before the end of his/her term;
  4. Submit a proposal to the Georgian Parliament to declare no-confidence in the members of the Board of Trustees;
  5. Require a hearing of the budget report presented at the joint meeting of the Regulatory and Advisory Councils;
  6. Require holding a committee hearing at the Georgian Parliament about the problems identified in the previous year in the Public Broadcaster which were not responded to properly by the Board of Trustees and the General Director of the Public Broadcaster.

As we can see, the transfer of the members of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster to the Monitoring Council represents a weakening of their rights.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) responded to the amendments made to the Law on the Public Broadcaster. According to the GYLA report, the Constitutional Court’s decision provides the condition that the current members of the Board of Trustees should not be dismissed from their offices before the end of their terms. This clause in itself implies that the members should maintain their authorities. Otherwise, removing their independence but keeping them within their formal job positions is without reason.

Old members of the Board of Trustees expressed their discontent with the adopted amendments. They plan to appeal the decision abroad. Emzar Goguadze, an elected member according to the old rule, stated in his interview with Liberali

magazine that the existence of two chambers is inconsistent with an institution such as the Public Broadcaster and this decision is an attempt to withdraw the old Board of Trustees.

In addition, we note that Grigol Gogelia was elected as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster on 21 May. The first meeting of the new Board was held on the same day. According to the Law on the Public Broadcaster, the number of members of the Board of Trustees should be nine, but the Georgian Parliament approved only seven members. This number of Trustees is authorized to take decisions.

As for the statement by Chiora Taktakishvili, the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster is authorized to know about any issues regarding the institution and develop and submit recommendations according to the regulations of the Public Broadcaster as a legal entity of public law (LEPL). Written recommendations adopted by the Community Councils are presented to the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster.

Therefore, the activities of the Community Councils of the Public Broadcaster as well as the aforementioned Monitoring Council are both only advisory in nature with their fields of activities differing from each other.

Conclusion

Community Councils and the Monitoring Council of the Public Broadcaster will have advisory rights, although their functions will differ from each other. Community Councils will study the current problematic issues of the society, develop appropriate recommendations and present them to the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster.

The Monitoring Council will present recommendations to the Board of Trustees or the General Director in order to identify any problems in their work. In addition, the Council requires a hearing of the budget report presented at the joint meeting of the Regulatory and Advisory Councils and submits the proposal to the Georgian Parliament to declare no-confidence in the members of the Board of Trustees. In the case if the Monitoring Council considers that the Board of Trustees or the General Director did not have a proper response to the problems encountered at the Public Broadcaster, they are entitled to a committee hearing at the Georgian Parliament.

Despite the aforementioned differences, it should be noted that the new body in the form of the Monitoring Council was, in fact, created to prevent the dismissal of the old members of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster before the end of their terms of office. Of note is that non-governmental organizations have negatively assessed the creation of a new Council and it was stated that the transfer of old members of the Board of Trustees to this body goes against the Constitutional Court’s decision.

Accordingly, Chiora Taktakishvili’s statement, "According to these changes [about the Public Broadcaster], a new Monitoring Council will be established but the functions of this Council are advisory in nature. The Law on [the Public] Broadcaster already provided for the existence of the Advisory Council and Community Councils" is MOSTLY TRUE.

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