The legislative initiative of Beselia and Gogichaishvili poses a threat to freedom of expression
The Parliament of Georgia has registered a legislative initiative of MPs Eka Beselia and Levan Gogichaishvili which provides for making amendments to the Law of Georgia on Culture and to the Civil Procedure Code of Georgia.
The proposed amendments allow courts to prohibit the dissemination of a creative work if it infringes on the rights and legal interests of any other individual, stirs up national, ethnic, religious, or racial strife, preaches war and violence, or makes propaganda of pornography. According to the explanatory note to the draft law, the draft law aims to harmonize the Georgian legislation with amendments made to the Constitution of Georgia.
According to Paragraph 3 of Article 20 of the new Constitution, dissemination of a creative work may only be prohibited by a decision of a court if the dissemination of the work infringes on the rights of other individuals. Paragraph 3 of Article 23 of the current Constitution also provides for seizure and prohibition of dissemination of a creative work if its dissemination infringes on the legal rights of other individuals.
Both the current norm and the new wording of the Constitution talk about infringement on the rights of a concrete individual, which mainly implies the rights to intellectual property as well as other basic human rights. In such a case, the current Constitution also entitles an individual to apply to a court to protect his/her rights.
Accordingly, constitutional amendments cannot justify an initiative that restricts the dissemination of a creative work on the pretext of stirring up strife and propaganda of pornography rather than with the aim of protecting human rights.
Therefore, the draft law, in the form it has been submitted, contradicts both the fundamental principles of basic human rights and the current Constitution and poses a threat to freedom of expression and creative liberty, especially in the cases of works of art and literature.
We call upon the Parliament not to support the submitted draft law and, also, to bring the current norm of the Law on Culture in conformity with the Constitution. Freedom of expression is a right and value of particular importance to Georgia, which is a young democracy with a declared aim of integration with the European space. Each legislative amendment that is related to restriction of freedom of expression is dangerous for the country’s democratic development.
The statement was prepared with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foriegn Affairs