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Tens of demonstrators gathered in front Georgia’s Public Broadcaster (GPB) in Tbilisi to protests against their recent decision to cease broadcasting joint programmes with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Media watchdogs have condemned the move.
Popular TV programmes Tsiteli Zona (Red Zone) and InterVIEW will no longer be aired on the broadcaster, GPB and RFE/RL have confirmed. The contract between two media outlets will expire in July, and GPB does not intend to renew it.
‘Everything is OK in legal terms’, RFE/RL’s Georgian head Davit Kakabadze said on 13 June.
‘The closure of the tv-shows and the persecution of different opinions did not start today’, read a 16 June statement from the protest’s organiser and former journalist at GPB Lasha Meskhi. He says that the Public Broadcaster ‘belongs to people, not to the political elite’.
Protesters denounced the ‘crackdown on critical shows’ and said it raises concerns not only for the employees of the shows, but also over the ‘idea of a Public Broadcaster’.
Independent media self-regulatory body the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics also condemned GPB’s move on 14 June, saying that both shows offered a ‘high-quality media product to viewers’. They had named InterVIEW as the show with ‘highest ethical and professional standards in Georgian media’ after monitoring coverage of the 2016 Parliamentary elections.
The Head of GPB’s strategic service, Ia Antadze, told TV Pirveli on 13 June that the broadcaster has decided to ‘suspend cooperation with external studios’ as part of internal changes after change in the station’s administration.
‘GPB has ambition to offer products [TV-shows], which will be chosen after a competition, and will be made solely with internal resources’, Antadze added.
Media rights organisations, have claimed that the new director of GPB, Vasil Maglaperidze, ‘is not politically neutral’, as in 2012 he served as deputy director of Metskhre Arkhi, a TV channel belonging to former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
InterVIEW, a joint weekly TV programme consisting of in-depth, 30-minute interviews asking hard-hitting questions to politicians, newsmakers, academics, and artists, has been running since December 2015, while Tsiteli Zona has been on air since 2007.
[Read more on OC-Media: Georgia’s Public Broadcaster shuts down joint shows with RFE/RL]