For the past two weeks the proposed broadcasting code of conduct has been savaged from the left and the right, and the mauling it has received-even from the loyal cadres of Rustavi2-has led to government second thoughts about the document.
The code was developed by the Liberty Institute, an influential NGO whose alumni rose to prominent positions in the government following the Rose Revolution, and is a (somewhat too) detailed set of guidelines concerning how journalists should go about their work. It covers things like asking people's permission to film them, verifying information, and protecting privacy. In addition, it also covers issues for broadcasters themselves, such as prohibiting pornographic material and religious propaganda.
The most contentious aspect of the code is that it is much more than a mere set of guidelines to which broadcasters will be held accountable, it will carry legal force, and broadcasters or journalists who fall foul of any of its various provisions will be legally responsible. Opposition MPs, as well as the directors of Imedi TV and Kavkazkia expressed their concerns that the code would be an instrument the government would be able to use to silence criticism.
The code itself was meant to be discussed in parliament and be adopted by December 31 this year, however the hullabaloo that surrounds this document has led to influential MP Giga Bokeria-himself an old Liberty Institute hand-to call for the parliament to postpone discussion until April next year.
The fact that the code is in crisis is demonstrated by the diversity of its opponents. Inevitably, the opposition are concerned that their voices of dissent will not be heard, broadcasters worry about editorial independence and government interference in what should be the free media, and some civil-society activists object to the legal force the code will carry. However, these nay sayers have found support from a somewhat unexpected quarter: the Georgian Orthodox Church.
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