January 28, 2021 17:55

Kakha Bekauri: “We will protect the rights of the viewers to ensure that obscenity, offensive language and hate speech are not used to suppress different views”

“Today the Commission has ruled that Mtavari Arkhi broadcasted obscenity. The coverage of this issue by several media outlets created the impression that the Communications Commission was censoring the media. These outlets are perfectly aware that the Commission’s goal is not to censor the media, but to protect freedom of expression and viewers’ interests. Furthermore, everyone knows that today, media freedom in Georgia is better protected than ever before,” the Chairman of the Communications Commission Kakha Bekauri stated at today’s public hearingg, during which the Commission ruled on the subject of the report aired by Mtavari Arkhi.

According to Mr. Bekauri, the use of obscenity by media outlets in relation to politicians and civil servants falls within the scope of freedom of expression, as these individuals have a duty to demonstrate a higher level of patience. However, the broadcaster should not forget about the viewers in such cases. If television channels ignore the rights of the viewers, then the Commission must step in to protect the viewers’ legal rights and interests.

“When we discussed this issue in the context of freedom of expression, we explained that there are high standards of freedom of expression in place in relation to politicians and civil servants. Therefore, the Commission ruled that there have been no violations in relation to civil servants. This has been explained in our decision. Recently we have often heard people appealing about freedom of expression. When we discuss issues such as this particular case , we understand the importance of freedom of expression perfectly well. Moreover, we now have a very high standard of media freedom and freedom of expression in our country. By no means is it under threat. In fact, the opposite is the case,” Mr. Bekauri stated.

According to the Chairman of CoCom, the Commission does not seek to penalise any media outlets, but to protect the interests of the viewers, and all claims about the Commission implementing censorship are false.

“We will protect the rights of the viewers to ensure that obscenity, offensive language and hate speech are not used to suppress different views. This is the purpose served by today’s decision. We established that a violation has taken place, but we relieved the broadcaster of liability, as we do not seek to penalise specific broadcasters. On the contrary, our aim is to work with the media, respondents and the public to jointly implement high standards. We wish to see the media space being free from obscenity and hate speech in order to protect viewers as it happens in western countries,” Kakha Bekauri explained, adding that discussions about this issue ought to continue in the future, including at legislative level.

“We must continue to discuss this issue, exchange opinions and examine the legislative package that has been prepared in accordance with the EU Directive, and submitted to the Parliament. I hope that we will soon start discussing this issue with a high level of public involvement. There are many good practices in western media, and the Commission is seeking to implement western standards in its approaches. Everyone needs to understand this, especially the media,” Mr. Bekauri stated.

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