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Georgian Media, Rights Groups Say Bill Would Stifle Free Expression

TBILISI -- Twenty Georgian media freedom and human rights groups joined more than a dozen news outlets in condemning a government-proposed bill criminalizing "strife-inciting calls."

In a joint statement issued on January 26, the news and rights organizations warned that the bill poses the "risk of unreasonably restricting freedom of expression and stifling criticism."

The bill, drafted by the Interior Ministry, that "calls inciting strife, i.e. public calls for violent actions, made verbally, in written or through other forms of expression and aimed at causing enmity or discord between racial, religious, national, ethnic, social, linguistic or other groups, shall be punished with imprisonment from 2 to 5 years."

It was submitted to Parliament last week and it has yet to be debated.

Opponents warned that the "ambiguity" of the wording oin the proposed law would leave it open to broad interpretation and selective enforcement.

With reporting by