Creating politics by annulling millions
18 October, 2012
Creating politics by annulling millions

“All those who made a decision on it will be held accountable”

How the debts of TV companies hastily written off by the Defense Ministry have been accumulated? The problem concerns Imedi TV, Rustavi 2 and Public Broadcaster. Were we the witnesses of a crime? These questions will be answered by a corresponding commission of the new parliament.

 

 

 

Not long ago the tax inspection raided the book keeping office of our Palitra Media Holding and spent months in search of “financial

irregularities”, the Authorities went and just wrote of millions in debt accrued by certain media outlets. These are outlets which are always considered as pro-governmental. Even more, it was said that in the past Rustavi 2 and Imedi were financed by President Saakashvili and Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili themselves.

Nino Jangirashvili, one of the founders of Kavkasia TV Company, says that in the past the Authorities did not forgive the company even a 2 Lari mistake and arrested its bank account. She asserts that this recent decision by the Authorities is outright criminal and its masterminds have to be held responsible in strictest manner. According to the acting Finance Minister Aleksandre Khetaguri, annulment of debts accumulated by TV companies would foster development of Georgian TV media.

However, media experts and representatives of Georgian Dream claim that this amnesty is designed for so called National TV channels which accumulated a total of around 22 million Lari in debt by July 2012. The pardoning of so big debt clearly harms the state budget and ultimately – the population which has not been asked in the first instance if it wanted massive debt write-offs for Rustavi 2, Imedi and Public Broadcaster.

Interestingly, on 17 July 2012, the Revenue Service published a list of companies including TV channels which were tax debtors but the list mysteriously evaporated just two days later. According to that list, at that time TV Company Imedi owed 14 mln Lari to the Revenue office, followed by Rustavi 2 and Public Broadcasters with 5.5 and over 3.5 mln Lari debts respectively.

Media expert Mamuka Andghuladze of  Transparency International Georgia says that the above said decision of the Authorities is not placing TV channels in equal conditions. We have a small media market and the move is not favoring all media outlets. If one media pays all the taxes and the Authorities do not forgive it a penny, why several TVs are allowed by the State to postpone tax payments and then have them written off altogether?  Under the given circumstances when certain TV companies have to pay taxes and cannot pay for expensive programs, other TV companies can pay for such programs and simultaneously do not pay taxes.

When shares of certain TV companies are transferred to others with just few days’ long gaps and without any explanation, naturally, one will suspect a foul play. Transparency is needed in how debts would be pardoned. The public should have the information before the decision is made so that it does not face it as the accomplished fact.

Media expert Ia Antadze says that the amnesty is an indulgence to specific TV Channels: Rustavi 2, Imedi and Public Broadcaster. These TVs always served National Movement. Accordingly, we should have guessed from the beginning that National Movement is not going to forego them and it needs them clean and clear of financial burdens.

“That’s why they decided to write off the debts of those TVs before they hand over the power. I think this is a way of reasoning behind the move. Why, regional TVs have not ever had any debt, and will not. Obviously, debts arise at major TVs. So, if there is any talk about benefits from the amnesty they surely would go to big TV companies. This time too similar things would happen, I am sure for 100%,”- says Antadze.

Once convened, the new parliament will set up an investigative commission to be chaired by Tina Khidasheli. Media experts hold it that it is this institution which has to study such issues and lead to punishment of everyone who would be found guilty of excessive use of power. It’s a fact that while the entire Government is effectively retired they nevertheless make such serious decisions to the detriment of the state budget. Most importantly, the Government places media outlets in unequal conditions because there are TV companies with no debts and TV companies with millions of Lari in debt.

“It’s a very sensitive topic and I am sure that those people who made the decision would face justice,” – stated Nodar Khaduri, one of the Georgian Dream leaders.

No doubt the control over the three TV companies is strategically important for the now former Authorities. The former ruling party does not conceal that President Saakashvili is preparing for the next political war where TV companies should depict the new Government as ineffective and incompetent. Though, they are fearful of a possible problem: the Revenue Service of the new Government may get interested if these companies were paying taxes in previous years and how were they paying, if their bookkeeping and financial reports are alright. They may also question the purchase of Rustavi 2 and Mze TV companies by Davit Kezerashvili, the crony of the former Authorities, at the end of September only to sell it again five days later.

Then again, President and former Minister of Internal Affairs Merabishvili have quite a strong financial ties with these media outlets. If they fear anything, it may reveal the reasons for suing those two political persons. This will have to be investigated by the new commission of the forthcoming parliament to be led by Republican Tina Khidasheli.

 

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