TBILISI, DFWatch – For the last three weeks Georgian television station Adjara TV has been broadcasting in violation of the constitution and the law on broadcasting. The Georgian government is responsible by not passing a law which would split it off from the autonomous republic’s authorities.
Adjara TV has been operating as a branch of the authorities of the region since 2004, pending a bill which split it off and make it either a private company or part of the Georgian Public Broadcasting. The deadline for doing has been postponed several times and last ended on November 1. The government has not explained why no decision has been made yet.
Adjara TV broadcasts via satellite and can be watched for free. It is financed from the state budget and is considered part of the state, more specifically as one of the departments of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic, which is the official name of the southwestern part of Georgia.
This contradicts article 24 of the Georgian Constitution, where it says: ‘Mass media are free, censorship is prohibited.’
Despite the fact that this section of the constitution was adopted in 1995, there were two state television stations in existence until 2004 – one run by the central state authorities and the second in the Adjarian Autonomous Republic.
The Law on Broadcasting was adopted in 2004. It makes clear that the central state television is given the status of Public Broadcaster. But the issue of Adjara TV was not resolved, because granting the same status to Adjara would have meant merging those two stations.
Therefore it was decided to continue working on this issue until 2005, to find a solution which wouldn’t violate the constitution and create free mass media in the country. This regulation was recorded in transitional provisions in the law; but its term has been postponed several times and the final deadline was November 1.
This final deadline was written into the Law on Broadcasting in April, when there was an amendment made to this law about transparency in media ownership. It was said once again that a media unit cannot officially be subordinated to the government, because then it cannot be impartial and independent. It would also cause a violation of the constitution, which guarantees the right to freely receive information.
The government was given a deadline until November 1 to work on the strategy regarding the status of the station. Now the term has ended, but the government hasn’t made any decision, and the term hasn’t been postponed.
To postpone a term defined by legislation needs legislative intervention, which means the parliament has to approve it. But the government hasn’t appealed to parliament regarding this issue. No strategy has been prepared.
“We have sent a statement asking what the government decided on this issue; but we haven’t received any answer yet and I don’t know if there even exists such a strategy. It’s a fact that un-free media in the form of Adjarian government department still exists in our county and the Georgian legislation doesn’t create real guarantees to fulfill the regulation defined by the constitution,” says Tamar Kordzaia from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, a Tbilisi based legal advocacy group.
Gia Khuroshvili, the parliamentary secretary, hopes that ‘the government wouldn’t violate the law’, but it’s unclear to him what kind of official decision is made.
The fact is that three weeks have passed since November 1, and Adjara TV is still broadcasting with the same old status, which is a violation of the constitution and other legislation.