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The Myth about Public Television

July 4, 2004


The Myth about Public Television

Bolshevik Attempts of  Channel One Leadership

Since the new government came into power in Georgia many staff changes have been made not only in the governmental bodies but also in the state television channel. During the transformation process of Channel One into Public Television, about 700 workers have been dismissed including Mr Zviad Koridze. It should be mentioned that he was invited to take over the position of the head of the news programme “Moambe” by the management of the station responsible for the implementation of structural changes. The dismissal of Mr Koridze was unexpected for him as well as for the staff of “Moambe” with management not providing an explanation the reason for breaking the contract. Mr Koridze said that his labour rights have been violated and he is going to restore this breach of justice with the help of the court.                                                                                                        

The Georgian State Television is presently undergoing significant structural changes aimed at transforming State Television into Public Television. During these reorganisations, Mr Zaza Shengelia,  Executive Director of the State Television, invited Mr Koridze to take over the position of editor-in-chief of the news programme “Moambe,” therein implementing  structural changes and innovative approaches in order to make the news programme more competitive. The leadership of the television station delayed the approval process of the project introduced by Mr Koridze which, ultimately, culminated in his unexpected dismissal without any explanations.

According to the former editor, whilst working at the television station, the news programme “Moambe” was awarded several commendations.  Mr Koridze also received many personal letters of thanks and appreciation for the work which was done.  He adds further: “The reason for my dismissal was not explained in the edict which, to my surprise, was dated 31 May but was based on the article of the Labour Code which foresees that a contract is broken because of the expiration of the term. I wanted to meet Zaza Shengelia personally but my attempts proved to be unsuccessful.” In addition Koridze said that some workers were also dismissed without any explanation, a further infringement of the terms of the contract, because they were taken into service under his patronage. The reason for the dismissal of some staff was also the fact that they expressed their indignation and protested Koridze’s removal.

It is obvious that the reorganisation which took place within the television station were done with flagrant violations of labour rights.  Restructuring within an organisation causes changes in the composition of the staff but this is a process which must be open and transparent for the public especially when it concerns the formation of public television. According to the law, every employee must be informed about an impending dismissal at least two months prior to the dismissal date. In addition, the rights of those workers must be protected during this process; that is, there will be some who will have the preferential right of staying at their jobs because of their qualifications and experience.

The former director of “Moambe” declares that his rights were violated because, in the first instance, he was not given any notification before his contract was broken.  Even more irregular is that his contract had been previously and automatically extended. Koridze was informed about the cessation of the contract on 4 June 2004 but the edict of his dismissal was given to him on 7 June whilst the contract was valid until 1 July. Despite all these events, Koridze said that the statement about his discharge was dated 31 May. He brought an action to the court calling for the restoration of his rights and justice. It is difficult to say what were the real reasons  for his dismissal although we believe that Mr Koridze became unacceptable for the leadership in his position of editor-in-chief in spite of the fact that he had been invited to carry out new structural changes within the television station.

These events have indicated those current negative attitude towards officials in Georgia as well as to practically every professional arrangement which they propose. As a result, distrust towards authorities, accompanied by protests,  strikes and other social tension, has increased and provokes problems within the process of the transformation of power. Those which occurred within the State system and the State Television are simply one of many examples. After the new government came into power, new faces appeared in the reorganised political space with the aim to provoke democratic reforms for a civilised country and to protect human rights. It is, however, somewhat surprising that the institution, the main mission and purpose of which is to provide society with the relevant and objective information about current events, often violates the rights of those people who are the watchdogs of justice.

by Nino Bestavashvili