New Challenges for Media Law – Start of the Media Law Project 2019

During the opening conference on media law in Tbilisi
During the opening conference on media law in Tbilisi

On 2 November 2019, IRZ and the Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani University organised the opening conference for a project on media law in Georgia. This project is part of the “Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia” and is financed by the German Federal Foreign Office. The project is targeted at:

  • journalists,
  • lawyers,
  • corporate lawyers,
  • representatives of non-governmental organisations and
  • students following courses in law and journalism.

The conference was opened by Sophio Kiladze, Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights in Georgia, Anri Okhanashvili, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs in Georgia, and Jan Bittner, representing the German Embassy in Tbilisi.

The presentations given by Georgian and German experts covered a broad spectrum of media law topics:

  • “Standards of Freedom of Speech and the Role of the Regulatory Authorities in Georgia” by Ivane Macharadze, Head of Department for the regulation of audiovisual media services
  • “Media Regulation in the EU for a Digital Internal Market” by Dr. Jörg Ukrow, Deputy Director of the Saarland Media Authority and Managing Director of the Institute of European Media Law (EMR)
  • “Privacy rights and Freedom of Speech in Conflict” by Prof. Dr. Hannes Rösler, LL.M (Harvard), a professor in civil law, private international law and comparative law and Director of the Institute of Media and Communications Law (IMKR) at the University of Siegen
  • “Freedom of Speech in Social Media: The Current Reality in Georgia” by Ass. Prof. Dr. Sergi Jorbenadze (LL.M. Bremen), a professor in media law at the Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani University and at the Grigol Robakidze University in Tbilisi
  • “Combating Hate Speech on the Internet and the Responsibilities of Social Network Providers” by Amélie P. Heldt, a junior researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research I Hans Bredow Institute (HBI)
  • “Media Problems in the Digital World” by Nata Dzvelishvili, Executive Director at the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics
  • “Fake news and Disinformation as a Legal Issue” by Dr. Jörg Ukrow
  • “The Reporting of Criminal Offences and the Limitations on Freedom of Speech” by Ushangi Bakhtadze (MS.c, Oxford), Head of the Research Institute for Criminal Law at the Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani University.

The opening conference on “The new Challenges for Media Law” was the first event held as part of the project running until the end of 2019 in Georgia. During the project, media experts from Georgia and the European Union will discuss a selection of media law topics with participants in several workshops and an autumn academy for students.

High-ranking Georgian delegation in Berlin for a working visit on telecommunications surveillance

The Georgian delegation visiting the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community in Berlin
The Georgian delegation visiting the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community in Berlin
Georgia

Telecommunications surveillance was the focus of the working visit made by a high-ranking Georgian delegation to Berlin from 8 to 12 April 2019. The discussions with their German colleagues focussed on access to telecommunications surveillance of traffic data and its use and storage, as well as compliance with basic rights guaranteed by the constitution.

In these times of globalisation and advancing digitalisation, the practical importance of covert investigation measures, in particular telecoms surveillance, and their potential for criminal investigations and risk prevention, are constantly increasing. At the same time, telecoms surveillance presents the constitutional state with new challenges. These involve in particular the use of the collected data and the associated inevitable infringement of the basic rights of the person concerned.

The Georgian delegation was made up of three chairpersons of the Parliamentary Committee, the President and two Vice-Presidents of the Constitutional Court and Georgian data protection officers.

At the start of the working visit, Dr. Monika Becker, head of section at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, presented the legal requirements and current legal situation for telecommunications surveillance in Germany to the guests. At the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, the delegation was welcomed by the Parliamentary State Secretary, Stephan Mayer (MdB). Employees from the individual departments explained Germany’s security structure in great detail.

On the same day, the delegation visited the Berlin liaison office of the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI). The German Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Ulrich Kelber, welcomed the delegation in person and pointed out that surveillance measures regularly mean a serious infringement of fundamental rights and therefore require particular attention to be paid to data protection.

The Georgian guests were given insights into the practical and technical implementation of telecoms surveillance measures, both when they met representatives of the Bundeskriminalamt (German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation) and when visiting the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Berlin. At the General Prosecutor’s Office for the State of Berlin, they were welcomed by Prosecutor General Margarete Koppers. There they learned about the legal requirements set out in the telecoms surveillance order.

At the German Bundestag Committee on Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection, the delegation was received by Chairman Stephan Brandner (MdB) and four other members of the Committee. Some very interesting discussions took place in the Committee in accordance with art. 13, para. 6 of the German Federal Constitution. Members of the G10 Commission and representatives of the Parliamentary Control Panel then went on to present the system for parliamentary control.

Event to celebrate the conclusion of the “@Media Societies – Georgia 2018” project

Prof. Dr. Bernd Holznagel, University of Münster; Manfred Protze, German Press Council; Dr. Frederik Ferreau, University of Cologne; interpreter Dr. Khatia Kikalishvili, representative of the Media Development Foundation; lawyer Thomas Wierny; Tobias Brings-Wiesen, University of Cologne; Amalia Wuckert, IRZ; Prof. Vaja Vardidze,  Rector of the Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani University in Tbilisi (from left to right)
Prof. Dr. Bernd Holznagel, University of Münster; Manfred Protze, German Press Council; Dr. Frederik Ferreau, University of Cologne; interpreter Dr. Khatia Kikalishvili, representative of the Media Development Foundation; lawyer Thomas Wierny; Tobias Brings-Wiesen, University of Cologne; Amalia Wuckert, IRZ; Prof. Vaja Vardidze, Rector of the Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani University in Tbilisi (from left to right)
Georgia

The media regulation event marked the conclusion of the “@Media Societies – Georgia 2018” project” and was the last intervention by the IRZ in Georgia last year. The event, which took place from 14 to 17 December 2018 in Tbilisi, was targeted at representatives of the Georgian media scene. The project was supported by the German Foreign Office.

Under the scientific supervision of Thomas Wierny and Tobias Brings-Wiesen, three German media experts led workshops covering the following topics:

  • Manfred Protze (German Press Council): Self-regulation in the press and broadcasting sector;
  • Prof. Dr. Bernd Holznagel (University of Münster): Regulating social media;
  • Dr. Frederik Ferreau (University of Cologne): Revised guidelines for audiovisual media services.

Before starting to work in groups, there was a joint half-day opening event, which helped participants to familiarise themselves with the subject and in particular to gain a deeper understanding of the basic objectives and principles of liberal media regulation. The German experts then went on to explain the European regulations. Georgian experts took over for the presentation of the legal and market situation in Georgia.

During the course of the workshops, each working group documented the existing problems, worked on practical and regulatory approaches to finding solutions and developed recommendations together. The documents produced in this way should act as guidelines for the Georgians in their future work on the political and legislative process.

As a member of the Council of Europe, Georgia is governed by the mandatory provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The country is also aiming to become a member of the European Union. The Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia, which came into force on 1 July 2016, includes some regulations on European media law to be implemented. In view of these objectives, the timing and contents of the workshop were particularly poignant.