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Debate in parliament continues over Must Carry

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, June 29
The ruling administration and the opposition could not agree on the terms of the Must Carry proposition. The issue was voiced during the first discussion of the draft of Parliament.

On June 28, the Must Carry law would function only during the election period (60 day period) and will be suspended a day before the election date.

Such formulation of the draft caused the opposition irritation. They have underlined that the diverse transmission and obligation of cable companies to broadcast all TV channels is more important after the elections, when there will be assessments made of the outcome. Thus, the opposition demanded the term to be prolonged for 20 days after the voting date. However, the demand was categorically rejected by the ruling party.

Moreover, representatives of the United National Movement have blamed the opposition for the possible “misuse” of the law.

The opposition is demanding the term to be lengthened without any real argument of this. They just state that universal transmission should exist in some other periods as well,” MP, Nugzar Tsiklauri said, adding that the opposition has a “wild desire to destroy the country.”

A statement has also been made by fellow Ruling MP Pavle Kublashvili, who has emphasized that Georgia is an “exemplary state” where the Government obliges cable television stations to transmit all TV channels during the election period and the opposition should appreciate the government’s “goodwill” which was based on the public’s interests.

Opposition MP, Jondi Baghaturia believes that “fighting against free expression has turned into schizophrenia from the National Movement side.” The fact that cable companies need the state’s obligation to transmit televisions stations (when their transmission should be in the cable companies’ interests) is a sign of an authoritarian ruling system in the country –Baghaturia says. The opposition MP is sure that the abolition of the Must Carry a day before the elections is a “targeted action” from the state administration side.

The aspiration was shared by the parliamentary minority Christian Democratic Movement. As a representative of the movement, Levan Vepkhvadze suggested it is essential the term to be prolonged after the election date “for the Georgian people to be able to receive diverse information on how the elections were conduced and how they were assessed by the international community,” Vepkhvadze said.

The Ambassador of the US to Georgia, John Bass, has positively assessed the draft and called it a step forward. He has emphasized that the Georgian people should have an opportunity to obtain diverse information earlier than the voting date in order to be able to make a more informed decision. As for the terms of the Must Carry, the Ambassador mentioned that the issue is important and should be discussed and agreed upon.

Those TV channels which are viewed as more oppositional ones, state that the Must Carry is part of a PR campaign. According to the General Director of Channel 9, Kakha Bekauri, there are lots of shortcomings in the draft. “There must be written in the draft what sanctions would be imposed on cable companies if they do not transmit some TV channels. They should also detail what might happen if the cable companies do not have the necessary equipment to transmit a channel,” Bekauri said.

According to the chair of Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, the Must carry is far from the real understanding of Must carry. “It seems the government does not want the results of the exit polls to be widely broadcasted. They know the power of truth,” Kakhishvili said, and pointed to the 2003 elections when political parties made statements on voter falsification after the voting date.