Coalition for Media Advocacy, uniting over ten Georgian media watchdogs, decried the amendments initiated by the Government’s administration and the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) to the Laws on Broadcasting and Electronic Communications, saying that the package of changes contains “the risks of unjustified restriction.” The CSOs said the adoption of amendments will significantly damage media freedom in Georgia.
According to the amendments initiated to the Law on Broadcasting on July 1, legal acts of GNCC – a regulatory authority, charged with distributing electronic communication protocols and managing broadcasting frequencies – may again be challenged in court; however, accepting a lawsuit will not result in suspension of the validity of these acts.
In the meantime, the changes initiated to the Law on Electronic Communications allows GNCC to appoint a special manager for a term of up to two years at the companies providing electronic communication services, aiming to enforce the decisions of the commission.
In a statement released on July 7, the Media Coalition noted that the proposed amendments grant “unlimited authorities” to the regulatory body.
Media Coalition warned that if amendments get parliamentary endorsement “GNCC will be able to make all decisions related to the issues of media, access to Internet, ad services and labor rights through using both direct and indirect levers.”
The CSO coalition called on the Parliament not to back the bill and to discuss the commission’s proposal with the participation of broadcasters, other stakeholders and experts, both foreign and Georgian.
The Media Coalition also called on:
- The Parliament to meet with the Coalition to discuss the bill;
- The Georgian National Communications Commission to meet with the civil society outfits and media experts to discuss the issue;
- The Georgian Government and the Prime Minister to review the bill together with the CSOs and experts;
- The Business Ombudsman’s Office to analyze together with media outlets all the risks faced by the media as business;
- Foreign diplomats and international organizations to assist civil society organizations in the important process of promoting and protecting media freedom in Georgia.
GNCC said in response to the CSOs’ outcry that the proposed amendments do not refer to the media organizations and broadcasters, stressing that the proposed amendments aim at eradicating the legal flaws related to the management of critical infrastructure facilities.
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