The President’s veto on the Draft Law on Broadcasting and his remarks explaining the motivation for it were the subject of discussion at the ad hoc session of the Parliament of Georgia on 12 July 2013. The President expressed four major concerns regarding the draft law and one of them involved the norm about the premature termination of the authority of the current Board of Trustees. According to the Head of State, this norm violated the independence of public broadcasting but his views were not shared by the Parliamentary Majority which supported the original edition of the draft law.
Articles 24, 25 and 26 of the draft law approved by the Parliament will come into force starting from 1 January 2014. These are Articles which hold the power to dissolve the existing Board of Trustees. There are 15 seats on the Board, two of which are vacant at present and will not be filled until 2014 and another four will be vacated by the end of the year due to the termination of these members’ terms. Therefore, nine members of the Board will have their terms terminated prematurely (the terms of four of them will end by 2015 while five of them are in office until 2017).
Eliso Chapidze, Member of the Parliamentary Majority (coalition Georgian Dream, one of the authors of the draft law) stated regarding the remarks of the President: “Consultations regarding this draft law, proposed by the coalition of non-governmental organisations, have been going on for months. Afterwards, by means of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we sent the draft law to Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, for expert opinion. From the options proposed by her, we made a choice in favour of 1 January 2014 as the Presidential Elections will be through by that point and the election of Board members will not be influenced by political processes or interests of any specific political forces.”FactCheck
inquired whether or not the Representative of the OSCE had indeed recommended electing a new Board of Trustees in 2014.On 25 March of the current year, the office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media published a report and recommendations
regarding the proposed amendments to the Law on Broadcasting. The report favourably evaluates the draft law and states that the draft law is a step forward as compared to the current law and meets international standards. The Representative of the OSCE expressed concerns regarding the transitional period, however. According to the author of the report, the draft lacked regulations on the transitional period which would result in an unorganised and premature disbanding of the Board. The OSCE advised the authors of the draft law to take more notice of the transitional period (in the initial edition of the draft law, which was sent to the office of the OSCE Representative, the delayed implementation of Articles 24, 25 and 26 was not specified. Thus, the current Board should have been disbanded right after the approval of the draft law).
Apart from this report, Dunja Mijatović sent an official letter to Maia Panjikidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. The letter discusses some positive aspects of the new draft law but also brings up problems concerning the transitional period. According to Mijatović, the Public Broadcaster’s Board of Trustees should not be disbanded at once as this would impede the work of the broadcasting. Dunja Mijatović offers two recommendations regarding the transitional period:
- Implement the Articles which hold the power of disbanding the Board only starting from 2014.
- Implement the Articles which hold the power of disbanding the Board only after at least half of the Board members finish their term.
and make appropriate changes to the draft law before adopting it.
In the process of checking Eliso Chapidze’s statement it has been revealed that Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has indeed given recommendations to the authors of the draft law on how to solve the problems connected with the transitional period after the approval of the law. From the two options offered by her, the authors chose and took into consideration the first.Accordingly, we conclude that Eliso Chapidze’s statement: “By means of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we sent the draft law to Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, for expert opinion. From the options proposed by her, we made a choice in favour of 1 January 2014 as the Presidential Elections will be through by that point and the election of Board members will not be influenced by political processes or interests of any specific political forces,” is TRUE.