Assessment of the August 11 Hearing Held by the Communications Commission Against Broadcasters
We, the signatories to this letter, believe that the National Communications Commission is engaged in a coordinated punitive action against us, independent broadcasters. This is based on the Commission’s unjustified and, we believe, illegal decision, announced on August 11, 2022. Accepting the appeal of the "Georgian Dream" party for consideration is to take part in the process that seeks to punish us for independent editorial policy and to impose heavy financial duties.
This is a case of the appeal lodged by the "Georgian Dream" party at the Communications Commission on August 8, 2022, and accuses the three critical media outlets - "Formula", "Mtavari Arkhi" and "TV Pirveli"–violation of the law for airing a video clip "Back to home - Europe" on June 23-24, 2022.
The "Georgian Dream" manipulates in their statement that the ad they contest is a political/pre-election placement and serves to attack the governing party and its representatives, to form a negative opinion towards them in the society and to damage their political chances for the future elections. Considering the above, according to the applicant, the video in question is a political/pre-election advertisement, which should not be aired in the non-election period.
At the August 11, 2022 session, the commission was supposed to decide on the admissibility of this appeal. For this purpose, it had to argue that the "Georgian Dream" is an interested/relevant party and if the commission is a relevant body to even consider cases like these.
The representatives of all three broadcasters pointed out that during the preparatory session (hearing on admissibility) the National Communications Commission should have checked whether the contested ads were of political/pre-election or, of social nature. And only then - based on the legislation - should it have engaged in the review of its own legal mandate to assess the content of such advertisement. We, the representatives of the broadcasters emphasized the ad disputed by "Georgian Dream" was of social nature, fully covered by the legal definition of social advertisement, was placed in full compliance with the law, and its purpose was to call the public to attend the June 24 "Back to Home - Europe" demonstration to support Georgia's European integration. The ad did not intend to attack any political party, or foster negative views towards them. If the content of this advertisement was unacceptable to the "Georgian Dream", under the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting, it should have applied to the court, and sue not the broadcasters, but the customer who requested to place the ads.
Similarly, the Commission has avoided all discussion whether the Georgian Dream Party is a relevant entity/interested party to even lodge such claims at the Commission, because the persons shown in the ad are high-ranking politicians/state officials. When these officials make statements, they represent the Georgian state, not Georgian Dream political party. Separating party affiliation with public office is a key characteristic of a democratic state. It should be noted that the advertisement does not contain any signs and/or symbols identifying the party "Georgian Dream", therefore it is unclear on what basis the Commission argued that the "Georgian Dream" is an interested party.
The decisions of the National Communications Commission have repetitively threatened the freedom of speech and expression of critical media. We believe this to be the same case. The government, through the regulatory body, is trying, on the one hand, to levy additional financial duties on critical media and to create financial obstacles for them, and to suppress critical/negative views in society. Such a targeted attack by the government on critical media will become another obstacle to Georgia’s European integration project.
The commission scheduled the substantive hearing of the case on August 23, 2022, at 3 p.m.
The interests of broadcasters are represented by the “Georgian Democracy Initiative” and the “Democracy Defenders” at the Communications Commission.
TV "Mtavari Arkhi"
30 November, 2022
Tbilisi Court of Appeals Upholds the Tbilisi City Court’s Decision on Liluashvili's Defamation Claim
30 November, 2022
Tbilisi City Court Partially Satisfies Tbilisi City Mayor's Defamation Claim
02 November, 2022
The Appellate Court Upheld Nika Gvaramia’s Imprisonment on a Politically Motivated Case
25 October, 2022