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Against establishing sanctions for harsh criticism of judges

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, April 28
The civil sector does not approve of the initiative of the High Council of Justice (HCOJ), which imposes certain sanctions for using abusive expressions while criticizing or covering the activities of judges.

The High Council of Justice initiated introduction of legislative regulations on the insult of judges on Wednesday. In addition, the Council criticized some recent statements released by the media over the activities of judges.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) say that with this step the judicial authorities want to avoid criticism. The NGOs call on the HCOJ to solve the problems that are still left in the system.

Eka Gigauri, the Executive Director of the NGO International Transparency – Georgia, said that this step will restrict freedom of expression.

“If the proposal of the High Council of Justice will turn into a bill, I hope Parliament will not support it, as it restricts freedom of expression,” she said.

The Public Defender of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili, called the initiative 'not serious'. According to the Ombudsman, there are already similar regulations in the country's legislation which protect the rights of every citizen, including judges.

The Ombudsman says that freedom of expression should be protected in the country.

“The Public Defender's Office will not support this initiative,” Nanuashvili said.

The Council of Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics believes this initiative aims at imposing censorship on the media.

“The concerns of the High Council of Justice that journalists are going beyond the limits of 'acceptable criticism' and 'freedom of expression' are unacceptable for the Charter. There is a high standard of freedom of expression in the country, which is essential for the protection and preservation of media freedom. Consequently, any initiative that will restrict freedom of expression in any form will worsen the existing standard,” the statement of the Council of Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics reads.

The initiative was also criticized by the Association of Lawyers. The Secretary of the association, Davit Asatiani said that there already exist the mechanisms of disciplinary liability and there is no need for any additional sanctions.

Lawyer Levan Alapishvili says that the initiative of the HCOJ is unnecessary.

“It is impossible to return to the Soviet Union. Everyone should know this…this funny idea will never be implemented, and even the HCOJ knows it,” Alapishvili said.

A member of the HCOJ, Kakha Sopromadze, said that abuse and expression of freedom should be separated from each-other.

"This new initiative aims to find out where the margin between freedom of expression and insult is. I believe that this will establish such practices and culture in the country,” he said.