All online media outlets are now obliged to register with Abkhazia’s de facto Ministry of Justice. The Abkhazian Parliament added this requirement during the second and final readings of amendments to the Law on Mass Media on 10 February.
According to the amendments, all online media outlets must register with the Ministry of Justice, giving the authorities increased control over online media. Existing websites will have three months to register, according to Abkhazian state-run news site, Apnypress.
The bill is ‘very important’ according to members of the Abkhazian Parliament. ‘Recently, a lot of online media outlets have emerged, which are not regulated by our authorities. All media outlets, existing and future, are encouraged to register. They must obtain the appropriate certificate and only then will they be able to begin their activities’ Sputnik Abkhazia quoted MP Levon Galustyan as saying on 10 February.
The registration process will give the authorities information about media outlets — the identity of the editors, owners, addresses, and other details. According to Galustyan, If an online media outlet violates the law, the Ministry of Justice will have the right to apply to internet service providers and operators, who must cut off the outlet from ‘broadcasting on the territory of Abkhazia’.
Abkhazia’s Law on Mass Media was passed in 2004, but did not regulate all aspects of the media, particularly online. In the US and most of Europe, regulating online media outlets would be widely considered to be interference in their journalistic activities, freedom of the media, and a violation of freedom of expression.