Media Advocacy Coalition: Suggested Legal Amendments Could Unjustly Limit Freedom of Expression

9 Jun, 2020

We, member organizations of the Media Advocacy Coalition, make this statement in response to the Broadcasting bill[1] as well as amendments to the Electronic Communications Act that have been proposed to the Parliament of Georgia.

We consider the proposed bill and amendments to present a risk to freedom of expression by opening avenues towards its unjust limitation; their passing may inflict untold damage to the media environment.

We call upon the Parliament of Georgia to reject the proposed changes, especially considering the election-related process currently ongoing in the country.

We call upon the Parliament that the Georgian National Communications Commission’s proposals be reviewed with the participation of broadcasters and authorized entities, as well as domestic and international experts.

On July 1, 2020, the Government of Georgia proposed to the Parliament a bill on broadcasting that had been developed by the Communications Commission, along with amendments to the  Electronic Communications Act (N07-2/494; 01.07.2020). This proposal confers unlimited executive powers upon the Communications Commission, allowing it to regulate its subjects at its sole discretion (via appointing a designated official), including via reallocation of shares. Essentially, the Commission becomes able to use direct and indirect regulatory methods to fully control media distribution, access to the Internet, advertising services, and issues pertaining to employment and labor.

Member organizations of the Media Advocacy Coalition express extreme concern regarding the new and unjustified risks the aforementioned proposal poses to the media. Therefore, for media advocacy purposes, we:

  1. Call upon the Parliament of Georgia to give us an opportunity to exchange opinions regarding the legal initiative;
  2. Call upon the Communications Commission to urgently set up a working meeting with the civil sector and specialists in the field;
  3. Call upon the Government of Georgia and Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia to review the proposal with the civil sector and specialists in the field;
  4. Call upon the Business Ombudsman’s Office to engage in the process and evaluate the risks posed to media as a business;
  5. Call upon diplomatic corps and international organizations to support our effort to preserve media freedom.

In addition, member organizations of the Media Advocacy Coalition yet again affirm their readiness to provide free legal assistance to any media outlet in need.