Parliament Adopts Amendments to the Law on Broadcasting
Despite the call of civil society organizations, the Parliament of Georgia approved the amendments to the Law on Broadcasting by 81 votes in a special session held on December 22.
According to the Georgian Dream MPs, the changes initiated on September 7, 2022 aim to bring Georgian legislation on audiovisual media services into compliance with the relevant directive of the European Union. However, the means of supervision of media content on the part of the Communications Commission are expanding.
Simultaneously, the procedure for resolving defamation disputes is changed, and a “right to respond” clause is added, allowing citizens who believe that a particular media outlet has spread false and defamatory information about them to file a complaint directly with the Communications Commission. Previously, in similar cases, citizens petitioned the Charter of Journalistic Ethics or the court. Furthermore, whether or not the commission’s decisions are appealed in court, they will be effective immediately.
The amendments to the Law on Broadcasting were criticized by civil society organizations shortly after their initiation. The CSOs stated that the draft law posed risks of restricting the freedom of expression, worsening the media environment in the country.
They emphasized that “given the practice of sanctioning critical media outlets by the Communications Commission, the risk of damage expected by the immediate enforcement of politically biased decisions against critical media increases significantly.”
A day before the adoption of the amendments, on December 21, the Media Advocacy Coalition, a CSO working on the topic of media, once again stated that the process of introducing amendments to the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting “was carried out hastily, without sharing the opinions of people involved in the field and without assessing the risks, which creates a threat of deterioration of the already difficult media environment”.
CSOs also mentioned the Georgian Dream’s argument about the implementation of the European Directive as a reason for the changes, emphasizing that the European Union does not tell countries how to change their own legislation. “The most important thing for countries to do in order to fulfill the directive is to achieve the goal set by it. [This approach] enables countries to consider the circumstances in the directive’s implementation and choose a path that does not harm the field.”
Furthermore, “the European Union has postponed the process until May 31, 2023, [for Georgia] to fulfill this obligation and work on the amendments to the Law of Broadcasting,” according to the CSOs. Taking into account the dangers of Georgia’s media environment, the majority of TV broadcasters and civil society organizations worked on an alternative version of the draft law, which was presented to Parliament by MP Tamar Kordzaia, “but they did not take the proposal into consideration,” according to the CSOs.
According to the Media Advocacy Coalition, “it is pivotal for the public to have detailed information about the processes of [Georgia’s] integration with the European Union and to understand that even the minimum standard, which involves the participation of interested persons in the processes, is not being met.”
The civil society organization Georgian Democratic Initiative issued a separate statement today, urging the parliament not to adopt “amendments against media freedom” to the Broadcasting Law.
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