DRI: Parliament should not support amendments to the Law of Georgia on Electronic Communications
The Democracy Research Institute is responding to the draft amendments to the Georgian Law on Electronic Communications and Broadcasting and believes that their adoption may significantly damage the media environment in Georgia and prove suspicions about the intention of the Government to punish critical media outlets.
According to the proposed legislative package, Article 461 will be added to the Law of Georgia on Electronic Communications, according to which, the Georgian National Communications Commission will be authorized to appoint a special manager to a person authorized/licensed by the Commission, if the fines imposed on that authorized/licensed person cannot ensure the enforcement of the Commission’s decision and if the delayed enforcement and/or suspension of authorization/license may harm the state or public security.
Despite the statement made by the Communications Commission[1] that the changes do not apply to broadcasters, the general reference to authorized/licensed persons in the draft law cannot guarantee the above. According to paragraph 2 (s) of the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting, which defines terms, the broadcaster is an authorized person and/or a holder of a TV and/or radio broadcasting license. Accordingly, the Commission's statement that the proposed regulations apply "only to persons authorized by the Law on Eelectronic Communications, who have critical infrastructure, and that the regulations do have not have to do anything with broadcasters” cannot be considered credible without a clear definition of the circle of addressees in the draft law.
In addition, according to the submitted draft law, the criteria for selecting special managers, the concept of their functions and duties, as well as the scope of their action, are unclear. The term of appointment of the special manager also raises questions. Even though according to the explanatory note, the proposed change serves to quickly and effectively eliminate problems, the special manager may be appointed for a term of two years.[2]
According to the Democracy Research Institute, the amendments to the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting are also problematic. According to the amendments, appealing against the Commission's legal acts to the court will not result in their suspension. Under this regulation, protection of rights in the court by the broadcaster is just formal, as the measure provided for in the legal act and its immediate execution can inflict an irreparable damage to the broadcaster.
We consider that the adoption of the proposed legislative package is inadmissible without considering the following issues:
  • It is necessary to specify the circle of addressees in Article 461 of the Law of Georgia on Electronic Communications
  • The draft law of Georgia on Electronic Communications should specify the criteria for appointing special managers, their rights and responsibilities, measures of responsibility and supervision mechanisms
  • Paragraph 7 of Article 8 of the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting should remain unedited. In particular, if a plaintiff applies to the court, the court should consider the suspension of the legal act.
The Democracy Research Institute calls on the Parliament of Georgia not to support the legislative amendments submitted by the Government of Georgia without clarifying the above issues.
[2] Explanatory note on the draft amendments to the Law of Georgia on Electronic Communications.