TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia is pondering the creation of a language inspection which will fine domestic media and public officials up to five thousand lari (nearly USD 3000) if they show lack of knowledge of the state language.
The bill is still in the process of being prepared, but already managed to raise the concern of people especially on social media and has received massive criticism.
Parliament’s committee on education and science is behind the draft bill which will amend the Law on State Language and the Administrative Violations Law.
If passed, an official who refuses to receive a statement or any document because he or she doesn’t know the state language will be fined from 200 to 500 lari (from USD 120 to USD 300). In case of repeated violations, the fine will increase to 500-1500 lari (USD 300-900).
A physical person may be fined 200-500 lari (USD 120-300) for restricting or discriminating someone on the basis of language and the right to study. Legal persons will be fined 500-1500 lari (USD 300-900) for the same violation.
The most interesting part applies to the media: media outlets will be fined if they violate grammar rules of the Georgian language. The size of the fine will be from 1000 to 5000 lari (USD 600-USD 3000) the first time; the second time the fine will increase to USD 6000.
The average monthly salary in Georgia is 500 lari (USD 300), but in print media salaries are usually lower, but 2-3 times more in TV.
The Georgian Dream coalition explained that the bill was necessary in order to protect Georgian language.
“Separate norms will improve and formulations will change in the draft, but the draft is beneficial in order to protect the purity of the language,” Eliso Chapidze, member of the education committee of parliament explains. “It will be important that the inspection of language doesn’t function as punishment, but functions as education.”
The parliamentary opposition, the National Movement party, is categorically against this draft. Sergo Ratiani from UNM told DF Watch that the idea is discriminatory, because it establishes certain rules not only for a single group – journalists – but the new rules may also become a mechanism for the government to put pressure on journalists it doesn’t like.
“From entrenched positions it will be too easy to find mistakes,” he said, adding that the law doesn’t define the notion of literatary language and norms and it will be too easy to manipulate the new regulations.
Ratiani says it would be better to take care of Georgian language by encouraging and financing education, instead of using fines and sanctions.