The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), the regulatory body overseeing broadcasting and electronic communications, found today pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV in violation of the Law on Broadcasting for airing ‘obscene’ footage.
The Commission chose however not to fine the TV channel, arguing it merely aims to protect viewers from obscenity, instead of imposing sanctions on broadcasters.
The regulatory body ruled that the story aired on Mtavari Arkhi TV on December 12, which showed one of the Ministers itching his genitalia at the first sitting of the Georgian Parliament, violates and undermines “the dignity and fundamental rights” of viewers through the display of obscenity.
On the other hand, GNCC stated that the Mtavari Arkhi TV story did not infringe on the rights of the Minister and MPs, as in this regard “freedom of expression outweighed the politicians’ right to inviolability of private life.”
Before the decision, the Coalition for Media Advocacy, uniting over ten local media watchdogs, decried the GNCC’s attempt to regulate the broadcasting of obscenity.
Media Watchdogs Decry GNCC Actions
The watchdogs said that the Commission possesses no authority to interfere with the content of the broadcaster, noting that the latter falls within the competence of the channel’s self-regulation policies.
The Coalition slammed the GNCC for “inaccurately” relying on a Constitutional Court ruling from 2009 to claim that it has the authority to evaluate content broadcasted by the media.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling, however, the watchdogs reckoned, did not envisage a third party or an administrative body, such as the state regulator to “on its own initiative, without any claimant, decide that a particular program violates someone else’s interests and contains obscenity.”
Stressing that the GNCC’s activities are “inconsistent” with Georgian law and the Constitution, the Coalition said “establishing practices of controlling media content represent a direct threat of censorship.”
The latter is “the strictest form of restricting freedom of speech,” the watchdogs underscored.