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Opposition Slams Regulatory Commission for Forbidding Advertising in Non-Election Period

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, August 14
Georgia’s parliamentary minority, European Georgia criticizes the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) for the prohibition of political advertising in the non-election period.

At the press conference on August 13, European Georgia member, Otar Kakhidze stated this decision of the regulatory commission is non-constitutional.

According to him, the decision should be abolished, for which the party has already addressed the inter-agency council.

On June 15, 2017, the GNCC stated that TV Company Rustavi 2 had violated the law by airing political advertising outside the election period.

The case was precedential, and the decision essentially prohibited all broadcasters from airing political ads outside election periods. The GNCC issued a warning to Rustavi 2 since this case was the first of its kind considered by the Commission.

The case involved Rustavi 2 airing an advertisement of the European Georgia. The GNCC monitors discovered the ad. The Commission considered the case under Article 661 of the Law on Broadcasting according to which, administrative bodies, political parties, public officials or public servants are prohibited from funding the Public Broadcaster, as well as purchasing its services and funding, directly or indirectly, of the production or airing of its programs.

While discussing the case with GNCC, Rustavi 2 representatives stated the law does not directly prohibit airing of political ads outside the election period. According to them, literal interpretation of this norm would mean that political parties are not allowed to purchase ads at all, including during the pre-election period, since it does not explicitly indicate the pre-election related norms defined by the Election Code.

They also added that the case was directed against their company. According to them, while other TV channels (Imedi and Obiektivi) also engaged in this practice, the GNCC monitors reacted only in case of Rustavi 2. The Commission requested information from these two TV companies; Imedi denied the report, while Obiektivi ignored the Commission’s request.

However, the Commission did not agree with the arguments presented by Rustavi 2 and stated that prohibition on the funding of the Public Broadcaster by political parties outside the election period aims at “protecting the broadcaster from political influence, ensuring its impartiality, and free and pluralistic debate, which strengthens the fundamental role of the freedom of expression in a democratic society.”

European Georgia says that Tbilisi City Court justified the decision of the commission. At present, the Appeals Court is discussing the case.