Author: Sofio Giorgadze
On March 27, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) organized a workshop for civil society organizations and the media representatives. The goal of the meeting was to identify problems related to Internet restriction, to encourage public discussions on the issues of blocking, filtering and removal of illegal content in Georgia, to promote dialogue between interested parties, and to collect feedback from civil society organizations before the initiation of a relevant draft law.
The following organizations took part in the workshop: Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Transparency International Georgia (TIG), Internet Development Initiative – IDI, ISOC – Georgia, Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS), Sova News, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), Media Checker, The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, Women’s Information Center and the Investigative Journalist Team (ifact).
The meeting was opened by Teona Turashvili, E-governance Direction Lead at IDFI. She discussed the regulations related to filtering and blocking of online content in Georgia, and specifically the fact that Georgia does not currently have a law on the internet and instead uses separate regulations that are chaotically spread across different legal acts:
- The Criminal Code (e.g. Regulations regarding Pornography and Cyber Terrorism);
- Lawon Electronic Communications;
- Law on Personal Data Protection;
- Law on Copyright;
- Subordinate normative act on Service Delivery Rules and Consumer Protection in the Area of Electronic Communications.
According to Freedom House annual report on Internet Freedom, Georgia is a free country. More specifically, the document says that the “censorship online remains rare” and “web content is not subject to systematic manipulation”. However, in 2016, Georgia did block YouTube and Wordpress. Based on these examples, workshop participants discussed the challenges of internet freedom and regulation in Georgia and possible legislative shortcomings.
Workshop participants pointed to the need to identify Articles that are too general or vague and improve their wording. Other topics discussed during the workshop included: studying and sharing of international experience and standards, necessity of appropriate regulations, and responsibilities and obligations of actors involved in the process. Workshop participants identified the following actors: law enforcement agencies, Georgian National Communications Commission, Public Defender of Consumers Interests, internet service providers, Chief Prosecutor’s Office, courts, Georgian Copyright Association, Data Exchange Agency and the Personal Data Protection Inspector.
Participants also emphasized that filtering and blocking of specific content on the Internet is a very sensitive issue due to censorship risks. Therefore, according to them, the state should have solid boundaries and must not have a possibility of making significant changes in this regard.
Towards the end of the workshop participants summed up the challenges related to Internet regulation in Georgia, responsibilities and obligations of the private as well as the public sector. Participants demonstrated their readiness to farther support the project in its upcoming phases and to continue sharing their position.
The workshop was held within the framework of the project Improving Legal Safeguards for Internet Freedoms in Georgia. The goal of the project is to ensure and strengthen safeguards and Internet freedoms on the legislative level in Georgia. IDFI plans to organize similar workshops with representatives of private and public sectors in the future.
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