Should public broadcaster have aired the counter ad of the Georgian Dream?
On 10 September, the Georgian Public Broadcaster (the GPB) declined (in Georgian) a request from the United National Movement (the UNM) to air six videos of a political nature, citing that the videos did not comply with the requirements set for pre-election political advertising. More specifically, it argued that the electoral subject - the United National Movement - could not be seen anywhere in the videos. Tamaz Tkemaladze, the incumbent Director General of the GPB, made a statement (in Georgian) related to this issue in “Netgazeti.” “Advertising must not be counter advertising. Instead, advertisements should say how much of a man the candidate is and what his accomplishments are. We will not broadcast advertisements based solely on what [Georgian] Dream has not done. We will broadcast details of the Party’s plans, but advertisements about the fact that Shah Abbas [of Persia] invaded [Georgia] and that Heraclius II was a bad king, will not be broadcast,” – Tkemaladze said. We believe that the GPB should not have refused to broadcast at least two of the six videos provided by the political party.
Due to the particular nature of this issue, the GPB’s decision to broadly interpret the concept of a qualified electoral subject seems correct. According to this interpretation, it considers a political party and its corresponding presidential candidate an electoral subject. However, there is one problem in the GPB’s statement: the Election Code provides that an electoral subject or/and its ballot paper number must be visible in a pre-election ad. This does not mean that the adverts should only be concerned with the electoral subject which commissioned the video. In this case, we can infer any electoral subject because the law does not specify which electoral subject or ballot paper number must be visible in an ad. Consequently, the GPB should not have refused to broadcast at least two (video Employment 1 and Industry 3) out of the UNM’s six videos, because the electoral subject “Georgian Dream” is visible in them – satisfying the requirements of the law.
Besides, we consider the comment made by Tamaz Tkemaladze above, explaining the reasons of the refusal, as unjustifiable and incorrect. Namely, his opinion that a pre-election ad must not be counter advertising, and that an electoral subject must discuss only its own plans, does not match the legal requirements and is not founded in law. The Georgian legislation (Article 2(z6) of the Election Code) interprets a pre-election ad not only as one aimed at promoting the election of an electoral subject, but also as one hindering its election.
We call on the administration of the GPB to refrain from making political statements and be guided by the law in performing their activities and remarks.