Tbilisi Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of „Media Academy“ and upheld the decision of the Tbilisi City Court, according to which a legal entity of private law („Media Academy”) established by the National Communications Commission was recognized as an administrative body and was obliged to provide public information on the basis of Chapter 3 of General Administrative Code of Georgia.
Based on the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting and the Law of Georgia on Electronic Communications, the National Communications Commission (GNCC) established “Media Academy” in order to perform its own function – promoting media literacy. By the decision by which the “Media Academy” was established, the Commission delegated its powers to the “Media Academy” which is why IDFI considers that the standards and requirements of transparency established by law for public institutions should be fully applied to it.
On January 24, 2020, IDFI referred to “Media Academy”, with a FOI letter requesting various types of public information such as: the staff list of Media Academy, copies of the legal acts defining the mandates of Media Lab, Media Critic and Media School, the activities carried out by them and relevant costs, their budgets, etc. “Media Academy” refused to disclose public information indicating that it was not an administrative body and therefor was not obliged by the law to provide information. IDFI’s lawyers appealed the refusal to the National Communications Commission. However, the founder and supervisory body of “Media Academy” refused to consider the administrative complaint thoroughly on the grounds that it was not a superior administrative body of “Media Academy”.
On April 7, 2020, IDFI submitted the complaint to the Tbilisi City Court and demanded to oblige the defendant to disclose public information requested by the Foi letter dated 24 January, 2020, as the "Media Academy" constituted an administrative body in the functional sense. On 25 February 2021, Tbilisi City Court’s Judge Natia Buskadze shared the plaintiff's position, granted IDFI's claim and required the defendant to provide the requested information.
According to the decision of the City Court, taking into account the norms of the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting and the materials attached to the case, Media Academy constitutes an administrative body in the functional sense, as the latter is established to exercise public authority of the National Communications Commission on the basis of the delegated authority, in particular to promote the development of media literacy in the community.
The decision made by the Judge Natia Buskadze was appealed by the opposing party in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, requesting its annulment and the rejection of the claim with a new decision. It should be noted that “Media Academy” replaced their legal representatives with new ones at the appellate stage. Natia Tskepladze, a former judge of the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court of Georgia and a professor of administrative law, represented “Media Academy” during the second instance hearings.
According to the appellant, the “Media Academy” was not an administrative body, and its main argument was based on the fact that the entity uses private legal forms of activity and organizational arrangement.
IDFI pointed out that “Media Academy” was established on the basis of and within the scope of the law to fulfill the goals and objectives set by law, which constitutes the main criterion for considering an entity as an administrative body, and the city court correctly obliged the opposing party to provide information.
During the hearing in the second instance, the Public Defender and Paata Turava, Doctor of Law (University of Potsdam, Federal Republic of Germany), Professor of Administrative Law at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, presented amicus curiae briefs.
Professor Paata Turava notes in his opinion that the Tbilisi City Court’s decision #3 / 2660-20 of 25 February, 2020 should remain unchanged as long as the court has given a correct legal assessment to the issue under consideration and concluded that “Media Academy” exercises public powers in accordance with the administrative legislation and, as a public institution, is subject to the obligation to disclose public information envisaged in the Chapter 3 of General Administrative Code of Georgia. Mr. Paata Turava also drew attention to the uniform practice formed by the European administrative law scholars and case law, according to which "the choice in favor of a private law should not be an escape into the private law (" keine Flucht ins Privatrecht ") as a means of avoiding obligations of public law”.
The Public Defender shared the position of the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding the interpretation of the definition of administrative body and at the same time, Ombudsman emphasized the special role of the Court in protecting the right of access to public information, given that the norms governing the right of access to public information are quite outdated and there is no oversight body with an effective mandate, which is why public institutions take advantage of the current legal situation and refrain from disclosing information.
On October 20, 2021, Tbilisi Court of Appeals Judge, Khatia Ardazishvili, announced the operative part of the decision, according to which an appeal was rejected and the decision of the Tbilisi City Court on obliging “Media Academy” to provide public information remained in force.
Such a resolution of the litigation by the Court of Appeals is crucial for the positive development of the practice, as it sends a clear message to public institutions that by delegating their powers to private legal entities, they cannot avoid accountability to the public and the obligation to provide public information. IDFI calls on “Media Academy” to share the assessment of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals and provide the requested information as soon as possible.
We will offer you an overview of the reasoned judgment of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals in the nearest future after it is delivered.
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