WASHINGTON -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has been informed that the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) will terminate broadcasts of two of its highly acclaimed television programs as part of a planned restructuring process that critics claim is aimed at silencing independent voices
In letters dated June 5, GPB cited a new season and “plans to introduce new programs” as grounds for terminating broadcasts of two programs produced by RFE/RL’s Georgian Service, known locally as Radio Tavisupleba, effective July 17. Red Zone, on air for almost a decade, has sought to confront the country’s Soviet legacy by profiling the life and achievements of cultural figures from the era who are largely unknown in contemporary Georgia. InterVIEW is a hard-hitting talk show dedicated to promoting public accountability and vigorous political debate.
RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said the decision was “disappointing, as both programs have made an important contribution to public discourse and political development in Georgia.” He said the company is exploring other options, and is optimistic that the shows will continue on other platforms.
Numerous professional organizations and democracy promotion groups were quick to criticize the GPB’s announcement. The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics urged on June 14 that the programs be retained, crediting Red Zone and InterVIEW with offering “diverse content and high journalistic standards to the audiences.” On June 15, five media and democracy advocacy groups issued a joint statement describing Red Zone and InterVIEW as being “distinguished by their sharp criticism of power verticals and political processes,” and said they “promote the government’s accountability.”
GPB Director-general Vasil Maghlaperidze, elected to the position in January this year, announced plans to modernize the broadcaster in February. Members of the broadcaster’s eight-member board of trustees have expressed misgivings about the plan in the run-up to local elections scheduled to take place this fall.
Georgia was ranked “partly free,” and placed 102 out of 198 countries and territories surveyed by Freedom House for its Freedom of the Press 2017 report.