to the Law of Georgia On Broadcasting were initiated in September 2022 and
adopted in December 2022. The draft law was introduced as part of the
fulfillment of the obligation to harmonize the national legislation in line
with the European Union’s one, namely the Audiovisual Media Services Directive
(AVMSD) as Georgia undertook the obligation of implementation of EU Law within
the Framework of the Association Agreement. The amendments were passed in an
expedited manner without proper consultation with the media and
non-governmental organizations. Representatives of these groups have expressed
their concern that by disregarding the legitimate concerns of the sector the
new bill would undermine even further the already damaged reputation of the
government in particular of the Georgian National Communications Commission
(ComCom) as the law that introduced new terms and expanded the competences of
the regulatory might be abused to restrict the rights of media and suppress
implementing the EU legislation the European Union does not dictate to the
countries how to implement the directive as the main goal of the harmonization
is that the countries reach the defined goal in an effective way. Instead of increasing the cooperation with
the media and civil society organizations by increasing the existing
self-regulatory mechanism in the country, the “Georgian Dream”, the ruling
party chose to further extend the competencies of ComCom which could be abused
to further suppress free expression.
draft law, which was registered in the Parliament of Georgia on September 7,
2022, by MPs from the ruling “Georgian Dream” Party became publicly available
on September 13. The bill was passed in its first reading at a
parliamentary session on September 19 without holding a proper public
discussion. At the time, the bill's authors cited the timely fulfillment of
commitments to the European Union as the justification for the accelerated
process and a lack of opportunity for debate. They noted that meetings with the
broadcast media and the non-governmental sector would be scheduled before the
second reading of the bill. Following the first reading of the bill, only one
meeting was held in parliament, where the need for an additional session to
discuss the text of the draft law in detail was identified. However, a second
reading was scheduled unexpectedly for November 28 without any further sessions
or consultations with relevant stakeholders. Again, Georgian Dream MPs cited
the timely fulfillment of commitments to the European Union as justification
for the lack of consultation or debate.
concerns around the media environment in Georgia, several TV broadcasters and
non-governmental organizations expressed criticism of some provisions in the
bill, instead opting to offer an alternative version of the draft law.
Opposition Member of the Parliament Tamar Kordzaia submitted the alternative
version of the bill to the Georgian Parliament before the second reading, however, the ruling party
has not even considered the proposed draft.
parallel, the Council of Europe commissioned independent experts to assess the
proposed amendments and whether are in line with the best European standards.
the conclusion of the experts of the Council of Europe regarding the draft law,
that sufficient time be allocated to the legislative process related to the adoption of the Draft Law, so that the broadcasters’ proposals can be given due
consideration and, if appropriate, be reflected in the Broadcasting Law. Given
the concerns raised in this analysis, and the additional issues in the Draft
Law and Broadcasting Law which have already been identified but which require
further analysis, a prolonged timeline beyond 2022 is required for allowing the
alignment of the Broadcasting Law with the European standards and the AVMSD.
third reading of the draft law took place on December 19, even though the
opinion of the experts of the Council of Europe on the draft law was slated to
be available on December 20. Furthermore, Prior to the third reading, the
European Union also notified the Georgian government that it would be
postponing the deadline for fulfillment of its obligation until May 31, 2023,
to allow for further review and changes to the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting.
suggestions deriving from the Initial Expert Opinion of the Council of Europe,
and concerns raised by broadcasters and CSOs, as well as an extension granted
by the European Union, the Georgian Parliament adopted the law in its third
reading in December 2022.
Concerns about the law
organizations and broadcasters have enumerated three primary concerns with the
proposed changes to the law. These are:
enforcement of legal acts of the Communications Commission
decision ruled by ComCom will not be suspended on an appeal unless the
judiciary will not decide otherwise. Although the proposed amendment is in line
with the wording of the Audio Visual Media Service Directive it should be
interpreted by taking into consideration the local context and the opinion
provided by the Venice Commission/DG Human Rights and Rule of Law Opinion No.
1008 / 2020 of 22 March 2021 on Electronic
Communication Law of Georgia. The Venice Commission recommended having the suspension effect of the decision of ComCom concerning the
appointment decisions by the regulatory. CSOs have noted that the in the past
years the media regulatory has a demonstrated record of sanctioning media
outlets that are critical of the ruling party. Thus, the principle of immediate
enforcement raises concerns about the potential damage that could be caused to
critical media organizations if politically biased decisions are adopted
of Hate Speech
adopted amendments introduced the statutory regulation regarding the
prohibition of hate speech, namely the amendments prohibit hate speech and incites
change has been regarded as one controversial as the media and civil society
organizations are concerned that the new provisions might be abused in a way
that suppresses critical expression. Even though the new definition of hate
speech largely reflects the provisions of AVMSD and lists the protected
characteristics from the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the main concern
remains the way how hate speech might be interpreted in practice.
Media and Civil Society organizations proposed without success the measure to
strengthen the co-regulation mechanism which could also be an effective
mechanism in opposing hate speech.
in the procedure for the Right to Reply
to the amendment, the right of rebuttal which was regulated within the
self-regulation was replaced by the right to reply regulated by ComCom. The
existing mechanisms were largely in line with the CoE standards. Instead of
strengthening the self-regulation mechanism the government decided to extend
the competencies of the regulatory authority.
to the changes, An interested party whose legal interests (dignity and
reputation, etc.) have been damaged by the assertion of incorrect facts in a
broadcaster’s program, will have the right of reply, in particular: The
interested party shall be entitled to demand that a broadcaster issue a
correction or retraction of incorrect fact; Refusal of a broadcaster to correct
or retract may be appealed to the GNCC or a court.
in the case of the regulation of hate speech, the amendment in question expends
the competencies of ComCom by giving the authority the additional right to
interfere in the contents of media outlets which creates a risk of limiting
their freedom of expression.