On August 20, the Coalition for Media Advocacy, uniting over ten local media watchdogs, addressed Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) over the draft amendments to the Ordinance on Approving the Rule of Media Participation and Its Use in Electoral Process, noting that the adoption of the changes “may create significant shortcomings” and pose a threat to media pluralism.
The Coalition called on GNCC to play an impartial role when monitoring media outlets during pre-election and election periods.
The Coalition outlined several problematic aspects in the amendments initiated by the GNCC:
- The definition of a ”media” has been removed from the new wording and it contains no provision about which media will be subject to monitoring. The coalition said that as election monitoring cannot apply to all types of media outlets (exemptions currently include online media outlets), it is essential to narrow down the list of outlets subject to monitoring.
- Requirements set to broadcasters for election agitation and ad placement are becoming general; proposed text does not clearly define what responsibilities are imposed on the media. The Coalition said vague descriptions will allow GNCC to use interpretations to reveal violations and apply sanctions against them.
- The provision outlining media liabilities has been amended in the new wording which is more unclear than the current version;
- According to the amendments, placement of paid or unpaid (political) ads by a broadcaster prior to the 50th day before voting will be prohibited that unlawfully widens the provision of the election code on the terms of political ad placement, where no special date of ad placement is specified.
The Coalition called on GNCC to revise the draft and create a space for free participation of media outlets in election processes.
Civil.ge tried to reach out to GNCC to comment on the proposed amendments but failed to get their response so far.
The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) responded to the Coalition with an official statement on August 21, criticizing the latter’s remarks as “dishonest” and “groundless,” noting that its remarks aim at providing false information to international organizations.
The commission clarified that making amendments to the Ordinance aimed at ensuring its compliance with the election code following the latter’s amending.
GNCC denied the Coalition’s allegations that the amendments would further expand the list of subjects regulated by the commission, saying that its authorities are defined by the election code and the Law on Broadcasting and no normative act can change them.
“All regulations apply only to specific subjects: broadcasters and state-funded newspapers,” GNCC said.
The commission also said it does not agree with the Coalition’s remarks regarding paid or unpaid political ads, slamming them as “unjustified” and “superficial.”
GNCC called on the Coalition “to cooperate with the commission and refrain from voicing unfounded and groundless accusations publicly.”