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New draft law opposed by MPs, CSOs

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, January 29
The Ministry of Internal Affairs presented a draft law to parliament on stirring discord and promoting hate speech and violence that has caused controversy among MPs and CSOs.

Now it is up to the parliament and law-makers to discuss it. However, the problem is that certain MPs and civil society representatives have stated that the law may directly contradict the right of free speech and expression. While the majority says the law has to be adopted but with some improvements in the draft.

The draft makes every act of stirring discord, encouraging violence and discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, or social status punishable. The draft offers sanctions for legal entities, including media outlets. In the case of such actions an individual might be sent to prison for 2-5 years. However, if his action causes some fatal consequences he might face 2-15 years of imprisonment.

According to majority MP Tamar Kordzaia, it will be a violation of the Constitution if the draft is approved by the parliament. She says it is hard to define the hate speech standard, the context of the speech and whether it stirs discord or not.

Georgian civil sector strictly opposes the draft and says it will put restrictions on media freedom. They noted in a joint statement that the government’s effort to regulate the freedom of expression was not aimed at protecting discriminated minority groups, but instead at limiting freedom of expression and strengthening the dominant social and moral discourse.

They claim that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every individual, also creating the basis for the implementation of other rights.

“In accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, freedom of expression includes not only "information" or "ideas" that are favorably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness without which, there is no "democratic society".

“Freedom of expression also includes discriminatory expression and it affords the possibility to rationalize fears and stereotypes of a society through discussion. The state’s discretionary powers are strongly limited when imposing restrictions to the content of the freedom of expression,” the statement reads.

The organizations called upon the government and the Parliament of Georgia to take into consideration the importance of democratic and pluralistic values and discontinue the proceedings aimed at adopting the bill, as it represents a big step backwards in terms of safeguarding the freedom of expression and the development of an open society.

It is very important that the Georgian side take foreign countries’ experience into account in the field and produce such a law that will affect neither the country’s interests nor fundamental human rights.