October 26, 2023

26.10.2023 – Media Freedom Threatened by Regulatory Changes in Georgia

Legislative changes in Georgia are granting the National Communications Commission of Georgia the authority to regulate programs containing hate speech and obscenity. The amendments to the Broadcasting Law were adopted in October 2023.

The changes have raised concerns, particularly within the context of media freedom in the country. With the legal changes, according to critical voices, the National Communications Commission starts to control the self-regulation body.

As written in the old law, if media outlets violate Article 55(2) of the law when disseminating their products or advertising, as also disseminate content containing hate speech or calls for terrorism, this can only be responded to through a self-regulatory mechanism. According to the new regulation if Article 55(2) is violated, the person concerned has the right to appeal the decision made under the self-regulatory mechanism to the National Communications Commission of Georgia.

Critics argue that these changes suggest the government’s intentions to limit the spread of dissent, fueling concerns about freedom of expression. The amendments open the door to potential political pressure on the National Communications Commission and restrictions on free expression. According to critical voices, the new amendments increase the scope of discretionary powers of the National Communications Commission, including the control of “obscene” content. There is now a possible to appeal against the decisions of the self-regulation body, what strengthening the rights of the National Communications Commission. According to experts as the Georgian National Communications Commission is given more rights, the question of its independence is at the center of attention and amendments allow different interpretations.

The amendments come amid a broader trend of exerting control over information dissemination, increasing the risk that the government may exploit these changes to suppress media further. This development is seen as a threat to freedom of expression in Georgia. In the past year there were several legal changes connected to the broadcasting regulations. According to observers the changes were always made speedily, without sharing the opinions of experts in the field and without assessing the risks.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is monitoring the developments connected to the legal changes in Georgia.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non-profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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