Communications Commission proposes tightening control of Georgian media

10 November 2017
A discussion about the initiative at GNCC (TI Georgia)

The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has put forward proposals to take a larger role in regulating broadcast media.

The Law on Broadcasting prohibits broadcasts from:

  • Propagating war
  • Inciting violence, hatred, or discrimination including on the basis of disability, ethnic origin, religion, opinion, gender, and sexual orientation
  • Spreading pornography
  • Showing content ‘harmful to the physical, mental and moral development’ of children at times they are likely to see them

The changes would apply to the Law on Broadcasting, which currently relies mainly on industry self-regulation.

According to current legislation, if the Law on Broadcasting is violated, it is the responsibility of self-regulatory bodies within broadcasters to react, not the state.

The new initiative would allow the GNCC and the courts impose penalties on broadcasters.

The GNCC, which has been the regulatory authority for broadcasting and electronic communications field since 2000, submitted the legislative initiative to Parliament on 18 October. It includes amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, as well as the Electoral Code.

Media pushback

In response to backlash at the draft law from several media and media rights organisations, the GNCC defended the changes on 8 November, claiming that ‘current legislation does not envision effective mechanisms to prevent [programmes violating the law] from airing’.

The GNCC claims that the change is necessary to comply with the EU–Georgia Association Agreement and to complement the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2010/13/EU directive) of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

The Commission pointed to article 6 of the Directive’s second chapter, which urges states to ‘ensure by appropriate means that audiovisual media services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction do not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality’.

However, the Directive has been interpreted differently by the GNCC and media rights organisations. Netgazeti quoted Lika Sajaia, parliamentary secretary of anti-corruption group Transparency International — Georgia, as saying that the directive does not necessarily urge states to regulate the topics.

On 7 November, Transparency International hosted a discussion on the initiative where Sajaia claimed ‘according to the same directive, self-regulatory mechanisms should be recognised as an effective remedy’.

The 44th article of the first chapter of the Directive says that ‘careful analysis of the appropriate regulatory approach is necessary, in particular, in order to establish whether legislation is preferable for the relevant sector and problem, or whether alternatives such as co-regulation or self-regulation should be considered’.

Nata Dzvelishvili, head of the independent self-regulatory body the Charter of Journalistic Ethics said ‘in a country like Georgia, this topic is much more sensitive and risky than it would be in a country with a more stable democracy’, Netgazeti reports. She claimed that GNCC should promote the development of broadcasters’ self-regulation.

The directive advises that states should, in accordance with their different legal traditions, ‘recognise the role which effective self-regulation can play as a complement to the legislative and judicial and/or administrative mechanisms’.

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