The draft law on supporting the free distribution of print media was submitted to the Parliament

17 May, 2010

At the end of April, the Georgian Press Association held a press-conference in the “Open Society Georgia Foundation” office and informed the society about the legislative initiative related to the press distribution.

The draft law is aimed to promote the free distribution of printed media, eradicate the press distribution monopoly and create the legislative guarantees for supporting the free entrepreneurs and development of competitiveness.

The draft proposal was prepared with the assistance from the “Open Society Georgia Foundation” and consists of four draft laws. One of the basic draft laws refers to the “Distribution of printed media”, the others envisage amendments in the laws on “local governance”, “Tbilisi – capital of Georgia” and the Tax Code of Georgia.

The main goal of the law on the “distribution of print media” is to create the adequate environment to support the distribution of printed media and protect the individuals and legal entities from restrictions on free trade and competitiveness. The second and third draft laws limit the right of the local governance bodies to regulate or forbid the “outside” trade of newspapers and magazines. According to the fourth draft law it will no longer be obligatory to use cash registers at the places where the print media is sold (stands, newspaper stalls and counters). In order to avoid “subjective restrictions”, the local governance bodies will be obliged to prepare five sample sketches for each stand and stall.

As Lasha Tughushi, Editor in Chief of the newspaper “Rezonansi”, noted during the conference, in case the Parliament adopts the draft laws, the guarantee for the press freedom will grow and the dangers faced by the printed media will significantly reduce in number. The adoption of the mentioned laws will also create social guarantees on the legislative basis for those working in this sphere. According to the opinion expressed by the Georgian press Association, the emergency for creating the draft laws initiative was caused by the chaos existing currently in the sphere of press distribution.

“One of the major problems media faces is the distribution of print media. In some cases the problems were related to the laws and in some cases to the certain political situation. We would like to submit the draft law to the Parliament in order to solve these problems and help the people working in this area, especially those who are socially unprotected and the distribution of media is the only source of income for them” – stated Mr. Tughushi.

The free distribution of the printed media turned out to be under threat in 2009, when the company “White Distribution” appeared on the market without having previously won any tender. The company started placing newspaper stalls all over the city and the free distributors were forbidden to distribute the press in the streets. According to the explanation provided by the City Hall, the old newspaper stalls that existed before 2009 did not go well with the overall look of the city and therefore there was a need for placing new, aesthetic stalls. As a result there were some cases when the priority was given to certain managazine or a newspaper during the realization and this was quite easy with the monopolized market in place.

“When the newspaper stall disappears from a concrete place and only 1000 stalls remain from the 50 thousands, it certainly creates problems for all the newspapers. We want to solve this issue the way that would be beneficial for all the representatives of print media and support the establishment of the competitive environment. The main task is to prevent the restriction of free distribution” – noted Goga Tevdorashvili, Editor in Chief of the newspaper “Kviris Palitra”.

The draft law has already been submitted to the Parliament on May 3, the World Press Freedom Day. Upon the bureau’s decision the Parliamentary committees were instructed to review the draft laws. The session meeting will take place after the elections.

Stay tuned for the future developments.