Project “Strengthening access to justice through non-judicial redress mechanisms for victims of discrimination, hate crime and hate speech in Eastern Partnership countries”

Mapping national responses to hate speech
in Georgia

Systemic analysis and policy report

This document has been produced as part of the project co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe “Strengthening access to justice through non-judiciary redress mechanisms for victims of discrimination, hate crime and hate speech in Eastern Partnership countries” in the framework of the Partnership for Good Governance II. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of either party.

Table of contents

Introduction                                                                                                                                       4

Mechanisms of hate speech in Georgia: situational analysis                                                          7

Systemic map of the mechanisms of hate speech in Georgia                                                      17

Systemic design framework                                                                                                       17

The hate speech mechanisms map                                                                                           20

Future directions: next steps in combating hate speech in Georgia                                              37

Appendix 1. Involvement of national stakeholders                                                                        42

Appendix 2. Bibliography                                                                                                                44

Appendix 3. Challenges explored in the multi-stakeholder workshop                                           46

Appendix 4. Ideas for action discussed in the multi-stakeholder workshops                                 47


In recent years, across the European continent awareness has been raised on the threats hate speech poses to societies, undermining human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The No Hate Speech Movement of the Council of Europe, and the leading role undertaken by the organisation in responding to hate speech by developing standards and case-law, provided a good contribution to this effort.

Member states of the Council of Europe are developing different initiatives to address hate speech, including in the internet space, such as legislation, improving investigation and judicial remedies, dialogue with media and support to education and awareness raising. While such efforts are laudable, a comprehensive and coherent approach is needed within a human rights framework to achieve sustainable results. The evolving case law of the European Court of Human Rights[1], Council of Europe’s standards, and monitoring findings[2] provide the framework needed to develop national strategies and action plans on hate speech.

Based on the country monitoring findings of European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), it has issued the General Policy Recommendation 15 on Combatting Hate Speech, outlining that a comprehensive approach must reconcile freedom of expression and other rights, notably those of vulnerable groups, which are jeopardised by hate speech. Such an approach should also increase society’s resilience against it. The Recommendation provides an inclusive definition of hate speech and outlines key components needed to ensure a comprehensive approach to combatting it, including legislative and administrative measures; self-regulation; support to victims; education and awareness raising measures including through use of counter speech. 

ECRI’s general policy recommendation is particularly concerned with the use of hate speech falling within ECRI’s work, but its provisions are envisaged as being applicable to all forms of such speech, i.e., on grounds additional to “race”, colour, language, religion, nationality, national or ethnic origin, gender identity or sexual orientation.

A holistic approach to the challenge

A comprehensive national response to hate speech needs to address the rights of the individuals both on and offline, in particular of vulnerable groups which are most often targeted by hate speech. It also needs to facilitate societal cohesion and clarify the responsibilities and roles of the national authorities and other key stakeholders (local authorities, parliaments, Ombudsperson offices and Equality bodies, Internet businesses, media, the education sector, NGOs, etc.).

The Council of Europe engages with member State authorities and other stakeholders to support the design of comprehensive strategies against hate speech, based on a systemic approach. This approach involves as a first key step a systemic analysis of the existing national approach to hate speech which maps how members of society are impacted by hate speech and the redress available to them. The analysis maps the interaction individuals or targeted groups have with institutions, public bodies, NGOs and the private sector throughout the process of addressing hate speech. A systemic analysis is not restricted to legal redress but encompasses all possible responses as outlined in ECRI GPR no 15, for example self-regulatory procedures, public condemnation, victim support and educational responses. By breaking down a system into its component pieces and studying how those component parts work and interact to accomplish their purpose helps identify gaps, challenges and new actions and tools. 

The systemic mapping had the following objectives

-       facilitate the process of reviewing and mapping existing policies, structures, tools and actions in the Member States to prevent and combat hate speech

-       understand the role of the different public and private actors involved and their interactions in addressing hate speech

-       analyse the results and identify emerging challenges, as well as ways to deal with them strategically in the process of combating hate speech.

Systemic mapping of responses to hate speech in Georgia

The systemic analysis of national responses to hate speech in Georgia aimed at including stakeholders from various institutions and organisations in a process of research aimed at preventing and combating the use of hate speech at all levels of society. The methodology of the research was based on system thinking and design, with a system map of the hate speech mechanisms among the main deliverables.

The project involved a mixed research team, including a national expert, Mariam Gavtadze, and researchers from a design company (Experientia).

The main phases of the systemic mapping were an initial multi-stakeholder training, desk research, interviews with key stakeholders and two final multi-stakeholder workshops. The main aim of all these phases were to:

        develop a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of hate speech in Georgia, as well as a graphic representation of the problem and the existing responses to it (policies, structures, tools, actions)

        gather stakeholders to discuss different perspectives on the problem of hate speech and their own role and positioning in relation to combating hate speech

        discuss with stakeholders emerging challenges and the road ahead on strengthening national responses to hate speech.

During the desk research phase, researchers analysed relevant domestic and international documentation on the topic of hate speech. This included monitoring reports by ECRI, as well as independent research by NGOs, national institutions’ reports, analysis of current legislation, etc. The aim of this phase was to understand the Georgian context and the phenomenon of hate speech within it.

Through the desk research, a list of relevant national stakeholders to involve in the research was set up. A specificity of this research approach is to be inclusive and participatory, allowing for different perspectives on one problem to be present and taken into account.

Part of this research aims to unveil the mechanisms involved in the development of the phenomenon of hate speech. The representation of these mechanisms takes the form of a map, with various loops corresponding to the areas concerned by the phenomenon. This map was developed on the basis of the initial desk research and 14 interviews with national stakeholders (20 civil society organisations and 17 public institutions representatives were interviewed) and was enriched thanks to the feedback of stakeholders during a multi-stakeholder workshop. 

Thanks to the desk research, the interviews, and the multi-stakeholder workshops, elements for future action to combat hate speech in Georgia were discussed and prioritised. Stakeholders also provided input in relation to the governance needed to combat hate speech.

Mechanisms of hate speech in Georgia: situational analysis

The Georgian legal and institutional framework ensures a certain degree of protection against hate speech and sets high standards of protection of freedom of expression. Hate speech is not criminalised except in those cases when the speech creates an immediate and direct threat of violence. The existing codes of conduct and self-regulatory mechanisms address hate speech in public service and media. Despite this, the existing self-regulatory mechanisms are not always functioning efficiently to address and prevent hate speech. There is no self-regulation for online media.

Hate speech is present in the media and social networks; it is often spread by politicians and public figures. It is nurtured by existing stereotypes, misinformation, and populism. LGBTI, religious and ethnic minorities,migrants (especially from African and Asian countries), and women are examples of groups targeted by hate speech. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an effect on the spread and use of hate speech, for example hate speech towards ethnic minorities of Georgia, mainly ethnic Azerbaijani citizens, has become particularly concerning[3]. The antisemitic statements, especially by the Georgian Orthodox Church clergy, has also become problematic.

In recent years, various aggressive and violent groups have gained considerable visibility in the public space by attacking individuals from minority communities. Some of these groups are affiliated with extremist political movements or the Georgian Orthodox Church. Most of these groups reject equality and secular state principles, and through their actions, including the use of physical violence or the threat thereof, restrict others’ freedom of expression and assembly[4]. According to the Public Defender’s Office and civil society organizations, the state does not adequately investigate or prevent the activities of these groups. In recent years such groups started forming political parties, thus making the extremist, xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric part of their political agenda.

On 5 July 2021 these extremist groups and the Georgian Orthodox Church united against the Tbilisi Pride event. After the organizers announced the Pride Week, the extremist groups started spreading anti-Pride, homophobic and manipulative statements and information, claiming that the Pride event was organized at the request of the “West” and was aimed to act against Georgian identity, values and the Georgian Orthodox Church[5]. In an official statement the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church said that the planned Pride March aims “propagating a non-traditional way of life, which contains signs of provocation and conflicts with socially-recognized moral norms and aims to legalize a grave sin”[6]. In a later statement the Patriarchate called on its followers to gather for a prayer on the streets where the Pride March was intended to be held and show the world that they are defending their dignity and any attempt “to degenerate people” is utterly unacceptable to them[7]. As a result, on 5 July the Church members and the extremists occupied the streets, attacked and physically injured 53 journalists, vandalised Tbilisi Pride and other civil society organization offices, deliberately tore down and burnt the EU flag in front of the Parliament building twice. The leaders and the organizers of the homophobic and anti-Western violent rally had been engaged in hate speech, including making direct calls for violence via media and social networks[8]. According to the civil society organisations and the Public Defender[9], the government did not take any steps against the calls for violence, did not condemn the hate speech and thus not prevent this violence, nor when the violence occurred take sufficient action to protect those being targeted, deescalate the situation, and prosecute the perpetrators.

Report on hate speech in media shows, in 2019, the largest proportion of hate statements – 63.3% (1,214) was homophobic, followed by xenophobic comments (28.1% – 538), messages inciting hatred on various grounds - 4.4% (84), statements involving discrimination on the grounds of religion - 4% (76) and racist remarks - 0.2% (6). Most hate comments were made by media representatives, followed by politicians and members of society.[10]

Among the general population, discrimination is often directed towards LGBTI, migrants, religious and ethnic minorities. According to the Public Defender, in 2020, the largest number of complaints lodged was about sex/gender discrimination (16%), followed by sexual orientation and gender identity (14%), and religion (14%). Applications concerning discrimination based on nationality comprised 7%, ethnic origin - 4%, and disability - 3%.[11] The discrimination unfolds in many forms such as hate speech, harassment, demonstrations, limitation of public space for various groups, and sometimes violence. The frequent arguments for discrimination and hatred are the protection of Georgian Orthodoxy and identity, securing Georgian traditions, values, etc.

Anti-discrimination legal framework

The Constitution of Georgia is the foundation of the legal system and the main safeguard for fundamental rights. It assures equality before the law and in article 11 outlines that any discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, origin, ethnicity, language, religion, political or other views, social affiliation, property or titular status, place of residence, or on any other grounds shall be prohibited. According to the Constitutional Court of Georgia, discrimination on the grounds that is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution shall also be prohibited.

In 2014 Georgia adopted the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (Anti-discrimination Law). The law ensures equal rights for every natural and legal person and prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination based on race, skin colour, language, sex, age, citizenship, origin, place of birth or residence, property or social status, religion or belief, national, ethnic or social origin, profession, marital status, health, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, political or other opinions, or other characteristics. In 2019 definitions of harassment and sexual harassment were added to the law as forms of discrimination.


The anti-discrimination law includes a derogation clause: the law protects a person from unequal treatment or condition unless it serves the statutory purpose of maintaining public order and morals, has an objective and reasonable justification, and is necessary in a democratic society. 

The Public Defender (Ombudsperson) is a specialized body in charge, among other functions, of implementing the anti-discrimination law. A special Equality Department is set up within the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) to review discrimination claims brought before it or raised by its own initiative. According to its mandate, the Public Defender can issue non-binding recommendations to the relevant public institution/body or individuals if they find discrimination. The public and private institutions are obliged to provide the Public Defender with all the necessary information in the case review process. While recommendations are non-binding, the Public Defender can sue a public or private institution in court if they do not respond to or take into consideration a recommendation by the Public Defender and there is sufficient evidence of discrimination. Furthermore, a person considering themself to be a victim of discrimination may choose to apply to the common court against the person/institution and may request termination of the discriminating action and/or elimination of the results of such action or/and claim for moral and material damages. If due to the same alleged discrimination court proceedings are under way and a person has simultaneously submitted the application/complaint to the PDO, in this case the Public Defender ends the proceedings.

Although the anti-discrimination law does not regulate hate speech, it prohibits incitement to discrimination. Therefore, based on this regulation, the Public Defender studies certain cases of hate speech, especially those of public figures or media actors, and addresses the author of the hate speech with the general proposal to ensure prevention and elimination of discrimination.

Freedom of speech and expression

The Constitution protects the rights to freedom of opinion, and to receive and disseminate information, including through mass media, and the internet. Limitation of this right may be allowed only for the purposes to ensure national security, public safety or territorial integrity, for the protection of the rights of others, for the prevention of the disclosure of information recognized as confidential, or for ensuring the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

The Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression underlines that the state shall recognise freedom of speech and expression as eternal and supreme human values. The law guarantees everyone, except for the administrative bodies, absolute freedom of thought, freedom of political speech and debate, the right to receive and disseminate information and ideas, prohibits censorship and violation of editorial independence of media, etc. It also defines criteria for the limitation of this right. The law includes a definition of defamation, described as “a statement containing a substantially false fact inflicting harm on a person; a statement damaging a person’s reputation” and establishes civil liability for its violation.

According to civil society representatives involved in this systemic analysis process, the state has attempted to limit freedom of expression on several occasions without reasonable justifications. For example, in 2015, the High Council of Justice called on the government and civil society to refrain from criticism of judges and the justice system; there have been several legislative initiatives to impose administrative or criminal liability for “insulting religious feelings”; in 2019 the President of Georgia and other state officials said that the regulatory norms of defamation should be tightened.[12] NGOs and media organisations also highlight the threats and attempts by the Georgian National Communication Commission to censor critical media.

Absence of a definition of hate speech

The Georgian legislation does not include a definition of hate speech. Even the existing codes of conduct that regulate hate speech by the media, public servants or the members of the parliament, do not contain such a definition. Therefore, it is not clear how the relevant self-regulatory mechanisms charged with upholding the codes of conduct define it when addressing relevant cases. During this systemic analysis process the stakeholders mention the need to adopt a definition. However, they underline that the process and content of its adoption must be transparent and inclusive of all relevant stakeholders to avoid the misuse and misinterpretation of the legislation and undue limitation of freedom of expression.

The Criminal Code and investigative mechanisms

The Criminal Code does not criminalize hate speech except when it poses a clear, direct, and substantial risk of violence. In 2015, Article 2391 was added to the Criminal Code of Georgia to establish criminal liability for public incitement to violence to cause discord between certain groups based on their racial, religious, national, ethnic, linguistic, or other characteristics.

The vast majority of civil society representatives, as also the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia (POG), underline, including during the systemic analysis process, that hate speech shall not be criminalised. Instead, the existing regulation of public incitement to violence with discriminatory motives should be enforced more efficiently. The NGOs complain that, in practice, the state does not apply Article 2391 often, including in the cases of public and direct calls for violence by extremist and homophobic groups. The representatives of MIA and POG also confirm that they have investigated and prosecuted only a few cases based on this article.

The Criminal Code addresses the crimes committed on the ground of intolerance. Commission of a crime on discriminatory grounds shall constitute an aggravating circumstance for all crimes (Article 531). The Code also criminalizes violation of equality among human beings (Article 142), racial discrimination (Article 1421), infringement of the rights of the person with disabilities (Article 1422), unlawful prevention of performing religious worship (Article 155), persecution because of religion or belief (Article 156).

In 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs created a Human Rights Protection and Investigation Quality Monitoring Department to ensure timely response and efficient investigation of hate crimes. The department is responsible for identifying shortcomings in the process of investigation and providing recommendations for timely improvements. The department’s mandate is limited only to monitoring investigations and providing recommendations and has no investigative function. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is actively engaged in training investigators on the topics relevant for hate crimes. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in its 2016 report on Georgia, urged the state to create a special unit to investigate crimes committed on racist, homophobic and transphobic grounds. Since the newly created department has no such mandate, ECRI considers its recommendation to be partially implemented.[13] The Prosecutor’s Office supervises the investigation of crimes and conducts criminal prosecution.

According to the NGOs and the Public Defender, the hate motive is often ignored by the investigative bodies, and many cases are prosecuted as ordinary crimes. Contrary to this, the Human Rights Protection and Investigation Quality Monitoring Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs underlines that the Department permanently monitors all cases and checks if there is a hate motive. According to MIA, the investigation is launched when the case is reported and in many cases the hate motive is not included in the initial reports. Therefore, the investigations define the motive later, during the investigation process. The stakeholders also mention that during the last years the quality of investigation of religiously motivated hate crimes have improved and more cases are qualified properly by the relevant articles of the criminal legislation. However, the work of the prosecutor’s office to assign the status of the victim and indictment of individuals for such crimes, similarly to other cases, and procrastination of the prosecution process remains problematic. Besides, civil society representatives complain that, unlike the Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Offences does not include hate motive as an aggravating circumstance for the administrative misconducts.

However, in 2019-2020 the Ministry of Internal Affairs prepared a draft legislative package that aims to further conform the criminal and administrative codes with the ECRI recommendations and assist law enforcement agencies in responding to challenges while investigating hate crimes. More specifically, the package introduces a hate motive in the Administrative Code of Offences, and improves the hate crime definitions in the Criminal Code. Even so, the bill has not been submitted to Parliament as of August 2021. 

The media

The Law on Broadcasting does not directly address hate speech, but it prohibits “broadcasting of programmes intended to abuse or discriminate against any person or group based on disability, ethnic origin, religion, opinion, gender, sexual orientation or on the basis of any other feature or status, or which are intended to highlight this feature or status, except when this is necessary due to the content of a programme and when it is targeted to illustrate existing hatred” (Article 56.3). The Law applies to TV and radio and does not include print or online media.

The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) is the regulatory body in the field of broadcasting. GNCC is the legal entity under public law. Its mandate is to prepare proposals on the state policy in broadcasting, adopt relevant legislation, issue authorisation for broadcasters, supervise their performance, etc. The Commission does not have the right to intervene in the content of broadcasters. The only exception is the control of inclusion of age limitation symbols by the televisions for the protection of minors. In addition, based on Article 56(4) of the Law on Broadcasting that prohibits broadcasting of programs “violating citizens' and person’s dignity and fundamental rights”, the Communications Commission has started monitoring “obscenity” in TV programmes. According to media and civil society organizations, this is a misuse of the legislation and aims at control and censorship of independent media[14].

Cases of discriminatory content in media is dealt with through self-regulation. The Law on Broadcasting requires all broadcasters to have self-regulatory mechanisms. The broadcaster’s code of conduct, adopted by the GNCC, applies to all broadcasters in Georgia. The code has to ensure that any broadcasting licensee and especially the public broadcaster be equally responsible for observing professional ethics standards and being accountable to the public as necessary to protect ethics and human values, strengthen social consensus, and promote tolerance in a democratic society. Under the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, broadcasters have the right to choose an effective self-regulation mechanism that ensures timely and substantiated responses to complaints. The mechanism has to include the appeal body, too, comprising independent, impartial and qualified persons who are not public officials or members of any political party and have not participated in the initial decision on the complaint. Broadcasters shall ensure transparent and effective complaints handling procedures while all concerned parties have the right to participate in a complaint hearing. Complaints shall be handled within a reasonable time. A concerned party has the right to request corrections or retractions of any inaccurate information through the same means and in the same form. The correction or retraction shall be of the same duration as the initial statement and appropriately scheduled.

One of the significant problems for the effective functioning of media self-regulation is the narrow and different interpretation of “interested party” (or concerned party) - a party who can submit a complaint to the broadcasters’ self-regulation body. The Law on Broadcasting defines it as a person (individual or organization) whose legitimate interest is directly affected by the activities of a broadcaster. The Code of Conduct for Broadcasters describes this term as any person affected by or mentioned in a broadcaster program. Because of such a definition, NGOs or representatives of various groups are often deprived of the right to lodge a complaint with the broadcasters as the third parties.

In its country monitoring report, ECRI also highlights that “the effectiveness of the self-regulatory mechanisms is also hampered by the fact that only affected persons can lodge a complaint, and not, for example, NGOs”.[15]

The primary concern of civil society and media organisations is to protect the independence of media and to prevent any arbitrary intervention and censorship by the state. The NGO and media representatives consulted during the systemic analysis process, outlined that the state has been permanently attempting to censor the media - especially those they identify as critical, opposition, or independent media - by misinterpreting the legislation, preparing new legislative initiatives, or simply issuing unjustified decisions limiting media freedom. For these reasons, NGOs and media organisations unanimously underline that the regulation mechanisms for media must remain in the sphere of self-regulation. They acknowledge that many problems hamper the effectiveness of media self-regulatory mechanisms, which, in their opinion, should be further improved.

The Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) has an opposite opinion. The GNCC considers that for effectively monitoring and addressing hate speech in media, the GNCC or the common court has to become the appeal body for the submitted complaints. For these reasons, the GNCC has already drafted a relevant legislative initiative and submitted it to the Parliament in 2018. The draft law remains in the parliament without any further steps so far. The GNCC’s initiative is heavily criticized by NGOs and media organisations and evaluated as another attempt of the government to intervene in the content and independence of the media and censor it. In the view of media and civil society organizations participating in the systemic analysis process, as GNCC does not have the mandate to intervene in the content of the media, such legislation will enable it to control the media content. The media and civil society organizations have already evaluated certain decisions of the government and the GNCC as an attempt to limit independence of the media. In its conclusion on the amendments to the Law on Electronic Communications, that would enable the GNCC in certain cases to appoint a special manager to electronic communication providers in Georgia, the Venice Commission[16] concluded that the amendment “leads to far reaching consequences for the right of property and media freedom as well as for the right to a fair trial”. However, the GNCC points to Georgia’s obligations under the EU Directive[17] and analysis issued by European experts[18]. According to the experts, the Georgian legislation is incompatible with the European legislation and that hate speech regulation in the media should be in the hands of the state. The civil society organizations say that in fact the EU Directive allows member states to choose whichever model of hate speech regulation they prefer, be it self-regulation or co-regulation[19].

The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics is another self-regulation mechanism in Georgia. It is an independent membership-based union of journalists aimed to raise the social responsibility of the media by protecting professional and ethical standards. The Charter handles complaints against journalists and also advocates for the journalists’ rights. The membership is voluntary, and unlike the broadcaster’s self-regulatory mechanisms, anyone can lodge a complaint. Currently, the Charter has 360 signatory journalists.

The Georgian legislation does not oblige print and online media to adopt codes of conduct and establish self-regulatory mechanisms. Thus, the accountability of such media platforms utterly relies on their internal ethical standards and goodwill.

Public officials and state institutions

The Law of Georgia on Public Service determines the principles that public officials should consider while performing their duties. The Law determines a public official's duty of loyalty, which means that “public officials shall exercise official powers in compliance with the public service principles and public interests''. The law determines the grounds and procedures for imposing disciplinary responsibility on public officials.

The Government of Georgia adopted a resolution on general rules of ethics and behaviour in public organisations in 2017 (Resolution no 200), aiming to create an ethical environment in public organisations and establish professional standards of public officials. According to the resolution, the use of hate speech and/or making a discriminatory comment by public officials is incompatible with the general rules of ethics and behaviour.

Hate speech by members of the Parliament is regulated by the Code of Ethics of the Members of the Parliament. The Code was adopted in 2019. The Council of Ethics reviews alleged cases of violation of the Code of Ethics on its own initiative or based on complaints. The Code prohibits MPs from making degrading, obscene, sexist, discriminatory statements and actions and using hate speech. The only redress for violation of this principle provided is the publishing of the name and brief description of the breach on the Parliament’s web page. Since establishing this self-regulatory mechanism, due to various reasons, the Parliament could not manage to set up the composition of the Council and therefore, the Council of Ethics has not reviewed any hate speech case.

Neither the MPs nor the public servants’ codes of ethics contain a definition of hate speech. Therefore, it is unclear how these state institutions handle hate speech and define it during the review process.[20]

During the interviews for this mapping analysis, NGOs reported that the use of hate speech by public officials is very problematic and frequent. At the same time, public statements by politicians condemning hate speech and supporting equality and non-discrimination principles are also lacking. The Media Development Foundation (MDF), an NGO that conducts monitoring of hate speech, reported that out of 1918 discriminatory statements identified by the organization in 2019, 402 statements were made by politicians. The majority of these statements were homophobic and xenophobic.[21]

Both NGOs and state representatives acknowledge that there is a need to consistently raise public servants’ awareness on the principles of equality, non-discrimination, tolerance as well as on diversity values.

Another concern highlighted by NGOs is that government bodies continue to offer contracts funded by the state budget for information dissemination to media outlets renowned for spreading hate speech and disinformation. In 2016 ECRI recommended to the Georgian government to review their contracts with media outlets and cancel or not renew them in cases where media are known to engage in racist or homo-/transphobic hate speech. The authorities should also ensure that future contracts contain a clause stipulating that racist or homo- /transphobic hate speech will result in contract termination (paragraph 33). However, according to the NGOs, this practice continues.

Elections and political parties

According to Georgia’s Constitution, the establishment and activity of a political party that incites national, ethnic, provincial, religious or social violence shall be inadmissible. The dissolving of a political party shall be admissible only with a decision of the Constitutional Court. Only the President, at least one-fifth of the members of the Parliament or the Government of Georgia, has the right to lodge a claim with the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of formation or activities of political parties. In addition, the public registry can deny registration of the future political party if its charter or other registration documents contradict the Constitution of Georgia.

The Electoral Code of Georgia does not explicitly prohibit hate speech. However, it bans instigation of national, ethnic or religious hatred or conflict in the course of a pre-election campaign. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), it starts proceedings on the alleged violation of this rule only after receiving a complaint, not upon its own initiative. After receiving the complaint, the CEC draws up the protocol, in other words prepares the case, and submits it to the common court. The sanction for inciting national, ethnic, or religious hatred in a pre-election campaign is a fine of 2 000 Georgian Lari (approximately 500 Euros). According to the existing legislation, the court can only impose a fine to the perpetrator; however, it cannot prevent the repetitive use of the same harmful content by a political party.

In 2019 the ruling Georgian Dream party introduced a legislative initiative that, among other changes, would add prohibition of “hate speech and xenophobia” in the Electoral Code of Georgia. The civil society organizations criticized the initiative with the following arguments: without the definition of hate speech the state might arbitrarily apply such legislation; it might be in conflict with the freedom of expression; the Electoral Code already prohibits the speech enticing national stifle and enmity, religious or ethnic confrontation. Civil society organizations called on the government to continue the work on the electoral reform in a more transparent and inclusive manner.[22] As a result, the amendments have not been adopted by the Parliament.

The use of hate speech by political parties and their representatives, especially in the pre-election periods, is problematic. The political parties do not have clear anti-discrimination policies. The majority of the parties’ programs contain little or no information on their vision about equality and fundamental human rights. The number of political parties with openly extremist, xenophobic, and homophobic agendas increases.

In 2020 the Media Development Foundation (MDF) conducted a monitoring of the parliamentary pre-election campaigns. A total of 140 statements containing hate speech were reported during the monitoring period, with the largest share accounting for xenophobic comments, followed by homophobic remarks.[23]

Public education

The 2005 Law on General Education defined religious neutrality and non-discrimination as among the main principles of public schooling. Its objective is to create for all students a learning environment that is based on principles of equality and religious neutrality. Nevertheless, according to the Public Defender, NGOs and minority religious organizations, religious indoctrination and proselytism in public schools remain concerning to date. There are frequent cases of use of religious symbols in public schools with unsecular, indoctrination purposes. The stereotypical perceptions held by public-school teachers are also problematic. From the mapping analysis interviews, it results that there is a lack of systemic approach by the state to ensure systematic and proactive monitoring of discrimination cases and to conduct in-depth training for schoolteachers and administrative staff.

Like the environment in public schools, the school textbooks are written mainly from a mainstream ethnic and religious standpoint[24]. However, since 2019 the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with the Public Defender has involved human rights experts in the process of reviewing the new school textbooks for all subjects. The criteria to assess textbooks compliance with human rights principles and the prohibition of discrimination includes reviewing the depiction of tolerance and diversity, gender neutrality, ethical standards, etc. 

Hate speech monitoring

In its country monitoring report of 2016, ECRI notes that there is no official data concerning racist and homo/transphobic hate speech. Several NGOs document examples of hate speech by journalists and politicians. In its annual reports on equality conditions in Georgia, the Public Defender dedicates special chapter to “incitement to discrimination”. While these reports are indicative, they are not exhaustive. ECRI recommends that the Georgian authorities establish an effective monitoring system for racist and homo-/transphobic hate speech. They should build on the expertise of the Public Defender and relevant NGOs[25].

Systemic map of the mechanisms of hate speech in Georgia

Following the desk research, as well as interviews and a final multi-stakeholder workshop, the systemic map of the mechanisms of hate speech was developed. The findings in this map are based on the sources mentioned in the methodology of the research, interviews, workshops and desk research.

For a detailed visualisation of the map, please go to

Link to the Hate speech mechanism map - English version:

Link to the Hate speech mechanism map - Georgian version:

Systemic design framework 

System thinking and design

In order to solve complex issues, it helps to take a step back and adopt a holistic point of view of the system in which users and stakeholders operate, in order to effectively ascertain where the problem is coming from and why.

Systems thinking is a mental framework which interprets reality, as made of an organised group of elements influencing each other by a causal relation, in order to achieve one or multiple goals. Systems thinking is also a tool to examine a system’s structure and behaviours looking for leverage points and acting upon them. It can also be seen as a language, because it has a specific vocabulary to describe a system.

Systems thinking can help understand more effectively which challenges need to be tackled. This is done by combining all the variables which are directly or indirectly affecting/contributing to the problem. It is possible to spot intuitive and counter-intuitive solutions with long-term positive effects, and to intervene in the structure and behaviour of the system affecting people's lives.

How to map a system: causal loop diagram

The first step to intervene in a system is to map it, in order to gain a complete overview and properly understand its structure.

One of the most consolidated tools used in systems approaches is the causal loop diagram, a diagrammatic representation of system variables, relationships, and feedback loops. This tool has three main advantages.

        Inclusive: variables can be anything from qualitative to quantitative and coming from very different and diverse domains.

        Dynamic: even if static, it can tell multiple stories that unfold cyclically and simultaneously, thanks to the feedback loop concept.

        Codified: it is drawn with a specific visual grammar, enabling comparisons between diagrams from different projects.

In a causal loop diagram, variables can be tangible or intangible, qualitative or quantitative, and increasing or decreasing over time.

Relationships describe how the increase or decrease of an element influences the increase or decrease of another. For example, spreading hate and intolerance increases the normalisation of the hate speech phenomenon. In more specific cases, the use of sexist discourse influences the polarization of gender paradigm by amplifying it.

These relations are called:

        Same direction relation, referring to a directly proportional relation that can be increasing (+) or decreasing (-) the next variable.

        Opposite direction relation, referring to an inversely proportional relation where if one variable grows the one in relation to it decreases and vice versa.

If the increase of a variable increases or decreases another one, there is a same direction relation. If a variable increase decreases another one, it means that there is an opposite direction relation between them.

The feedback loops can be:

        Reinforcing feedback, for example, when the spread of intolerance increases the radicalization of opinions among different groups, and the latter increases the spread of intolerance, reinforcing the mechanism.

        Balancing feedback, a mechanism that maintains a balance among the variables. For example, when the discrimination rises, the promotion of youth awareness campaign can rise to help decreasing the discrimination, counterbalancing the phenomenon.

The hate speech mechanisms map

The mechanisms identified in the mapping process are:

Core engine

The core engine that leads to hate speech on a general level, from which the other more specific mechanisms start.


Minority loops address three areas in which hate speech occurs: foreigners and/or migrants, ethnic minorities in the country, and religious minorities.

Identity and geopolitical influence

The loop on identity and geopolitical influences relates to the question of anti-Western narratives and how they influence the perception of liberal values as imposed and difficult to accept.


The loop on education covers the topic of education in public schools, including the role of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the need to make schools the point of departure in spreading the principles of equality and tolerance.

SOGI & gender equality

The loop on SOGI & gender equality is about hate speech against women on the basis of gender and against LGBTI people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hate speech regulation

The hate speech regulation loop represents the weaknesses and concerns around the need of regulating hate speech.

Hate speech in the public space

Hate speech in the public space concerns the consequences of the use of hate speech on social networks, the role of politicians and the impact of disinformation mechanisms.

Legislative measures

Legislative measures in place concerning the different thematic areas.

The contents of the final hate speech mechanism map include the following:

Loop | Core engine (Reinforcing loop)

Hate speech is a self-reinforcing phenomenon. The vicious circle starts with stereotypical ideas on particular groups in society, usually cultural or ethnic minorities, or people who are seen as emblematic of an idea of gender identity and/or sexual orientation considered far from the so called traditional and conservative values. These stereotypes lead to discrimination in various spheres of public and private life, which in turn marginalizes these groups compared to others, and they find themselves not having access to public spaces and to equal access to rights. Being in a situation of marginalization implies that these people have less visibility and causes others to consider the situation as natural and normal. In addition, the normalization of this phenomenon also decreases the opposition to hate speech by state representatives and other public figures, some of whom also happen to be its most effective perpetrators. This decreases the perceptions that such hate speech is problematic, leading to an increase in its diffusion.

Loop | Migrants/foreigners (Reinforcing loop)

Stereotypes about migrants and foreigners have various consequences on how they are perceived by the general population. In fact, migrants / foreigners, and in particular those from certain countries, are usually portrayed as a threat to national identity and security. Consequently, trust in these people decreases, and xenophobic and racist attitudes towards them increase. There is also a growing fear that identities and values of these people, identified as "different", may prevail over the Georgians ones. This fear leads to the formation of more radical and xenophobic groups and political parties, which will threaten migrants and other foreigners and will spread negative stereotypes towards them. Feeding this portrayal of migrants and foreigners as a threat only amplifies radical nationalism.

Loop | Ethnic minorities (Reinforcing loop)

The marginalization of ethnic minorities creates a situation where people belonging to ethnic minorities are perceived as if they are not really part of the country and therefore not equal citizens. This perception, spread by some groups, weakens the historical awareness of a common past with the ethnic minorities present in the country. The lack of historical contextualization of minorities in the Georgian territory and culture is also linked to the problem that school textbooks often do not mention minorities, making them seem completely absent in Georgian history. These narratives often lead to the creation of new accusations against these groups, such as acting against the interests of Georgia. As a result, people belonging to these ethnic minorities are often discriminated against and do not enjoy the same treatment as others. Not having access to equal treatment diminishes the integration of these groups within the Georgian public and political space, and this amplifies the perception that these groups are not part of the country. In addition, the lack of integration is linked with a lack of access to quality services and education, especially in minority regions, that can create social alienation and, sometimes, also episodes of conflict among different groups.To ensure participation and integration of ethnic minorities the government has developed the State Strategy for Civic Equality and Integration and respective Action Plan, however the civil society stakeholders and ethnic minority representatives participating the mapping process, do not find the implemented measures sufficient to overcome the existing stereotypes and ensure full participation of minorities in public, political and social life.

Loop | Religious minorities (Reinforcing loop)

Nationalism is also linked to religion. Religious minorities (part of them are also ethnic minorities) are also victims of negative stereotypes. For example, some of them are represented as potentially disloyal to the country. The consequence is the spread of hate speech towards groups or individuals belonging to religions other than the Georgian Orthodox Church. Hate speech leads to the discrimination of the religious minorities living in the country. Part of the discrimination is to limit rights and privileges in terms of e.g. legislation, taxation, property and other areas only to the Georgian Orthodox Church, and to reduce the visibility of other religious groups in the public space. Discriminating religious minorities goes against the principles of equality and secularity of the State, and the departure from these principles leads to an exclusive protection of the interests of the Georgian Orthodox Church. This sometimes leads to promoting a discourse of hatred and exclusion towards religions other than the dominant one and to reinforcing the so-called “traditional” values.

Loop | Education (Reinforcing loop)

The principles of equality and secularity of the State are in contrast with the influence of religion in public schools. According to the stakeholders participating in the mapping process, the influence of the Orthodox Church in public education often implies the promotion of conservative ideas and values, leading to a situation in which principles related to equality and non-discrimination are not being respected in public schools and universities. Students are exposed to discriminatory content in textbooks, causing students and teachers to consider discriminatory content to be normal. This phenomenon of normalization strengthens the discrimination and the religious interference in public schools.

Balancing loop | Education

The violation of religious neutrality also leads to an increase in demand to limit religious influence and discriminatory contents in public education. Reinforcing the application of the Law on General Education leads to the review of textbooks – an ongoing process carried out by the Ministry of Education, and to the initial training offered to some groups of teachers by some NGOs to improve their knowledge on human rights and tolerance values – also an ongoing process. These activities do their part in increasing respect for principles of equality and tolerance. Additional efforts are needed to reinforce the learning about the values of tolerance and equality in public schools.

Loop | Identity and geo-political influence (Reinforcing loop)

Some political and religious leaders, and extremist groups, carry on an anti-Western narrative, and support and spread the idea that the West imposes its policies and values, increasing the perception of human rights language as being brought in from outside and is only part of the Western culture hence not Georgian tradition. This type of storytelling leads many people to feel that their independence and cultural integrity is threatened, resulting in radicalizing the so-called traditional values. Usually, those who promote “traditional values” are often the same as those who oppose liberal values and feed the anti-Western narratives.

Loop | Gender and women (Reinforcing loop)

The more “traditional values” are reinforced, the less there is gender equality, and the more space is given to traditional gender roles. Inequality between men and women, as well as the traditional roles only strengthen, spread, and normalize the stereotypes linked to the role of women. The use of sexist discourse also increases, leading ultimately to discrimination, forms of domestic violence and sexual harassment. Those who speak up against this system of violence, verbal and physical, often become victims of hate speech themselves. Conservative groups often demand that those who fight for more equality ought to stay in their place and behave as tradition dictates. Sexist speech towards women increases in general the unequal treatment they receive in many spheres of life, in particular at the workplace or when they hold important positions as public figures.

Balancing loop | Gender and women

When the principles of gender equality are rejected, the inequality between men and women increases. This leads to an increase in public discussion on gender equality, and in awareness that sexual harassment behaviour is harmful and violent towards women. An increased awareness of gender inequality leads women to realize that the violence they suffer is not normal but must be fought. If the number of complaints is also higher, the visibility of the problem of discrimination, harassment and violence against women will increase, helping society to potentially reduce the unequal treatment suffered by women and decrease the gap between men and women.

Loop | Reporting reactions (Reinforcing loop)

When women report cases of violence or sexual harassment, the role of the media can be crucial and necessary in putting pressure on the government in preventing gender discrimination and violence, but only if the news concerning the case is spread professionally and ethically, which is not often the case. The role of the media in spreading the news about the case can also create a wave of hate speech against the woman and those who support her, like NGOs. This massive wave of hate speech leads to silencing women, delegitimizing their words and damaging the trust in them. The frequent hate speech received by women and NGOs after having reported the case discourages other women from reporting what happened to them.

Loop | Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (Reinforcing loop)

Appealing to the so-called “traditional values” leads to an increase in negative stereotypes about LGBTI people and to disrespecting their rights. Those who do not want to accept the rights of LGBTI people carry out a discourse according to which the rights of LGBTI would infringe and put under threat the rights of the majority, in particular those rights linked to family life. Stereotypes and the spread of this narrative lead to an increase in homophobic attitudes and sentiments, with associated episodes of violence especially in public spaces, as it was reported during the interviews for the mapping analysis that more and more LGBTI people are attacked on the street. The increase of homophobic attitudes put LGBTI community members at risk of discrimination and hatred when accessing the most common public and private services, such as healthcare and shops, and this discriminatory treatment is reflected also in the workplace. The public space for LGBTI people and activists is limited and in reality, the community is unable to enjoy their freedom of assembly publicly.

Loop |Hate speech regulation (Reinforcing loop)

The spread of hate speech also leads to the need for regulation to address it. As the need for regulation increases, so does the perception that existing regulation is not effective enough. The lack of enforcement of the Criminal Code for discriminatory motives and the lack of discriminatory motive in the Code of Administrative Offences feed this perception. A few stakeholders, such as the National Communication Commission (GNCC), for this reason state that it is necessary to introduce legislation in the Georgian context to regulate and reduce the hate speech phenomenon. According to the GNCC, to avoid arbitrary limitation of freedom of expression, additional legislative and procedural mechanisms shall be created. However, the hypothesis of introducing legislation that regulates the hate speech phenomenon brings with it the concern that this could create counterproductive effects, such as limiting freedom of expression. In particular, there is increasing concern that the legislation would be misinterpreted and misused by the state and that, consequently, this would lead to an increase in limitations on freedom of expression and opinion (e.g., in the media). Therefore, there is a growing preference among the majority stakeholders (i.e., NGOs, media organisations, Public Defender’s Office) for applying self-regulatory mechanisms. Yet, they also present critical issues, thus increasing the perception that they are functioning ineffectively and need further enhancement in counteracting the hate speech phenomenon. The less effective the self-regulatory bodies are, the more politicians use incitement to discrimination and spread hateful messages. The number of hate speech reports decreases because of the ineffective functioning of self-regulatory mechanisms both in state institutions and media. Also, the problem of the ambiguous definition of “interested parties” prevents many organizations from reporting cases of hate speech in the media. The self-regulatory mechanisms are applied only for broadcasting, while online media do not have such mechanisms.

Loop | Hate speech definition (Reinforcing loop)

The necessity to introduce hate speech regulation or to improve existing self-regulatory mechanisms requires a shared definition of hate speech and a need for more effective redress. Those necessities increase the public debate which, in turn, leads to raised awareness of the negative impact of hate speech, reinforcing the need for a shared definition of hate speech.

Loop | Social networks’ effect (Reinforcing loop)

The normalization of the hate speech phenomenon also leads to the normalization of negative discourse towards some groups. The use of hate speech on social networks also increases, leading to an amplification of hate speech messages, especially in cases where the message is spread by key opinion leaders. The associated visibility of hate speech leads to supporting the propaganda of intolerance carried out by some politicians and public figures, in particular in pre-elections, contributing to normalizing this kind of speech.

Loop | Politicians’ role (Reinforcing loop)

The propaganda of intolerance carried out by some politicians, in particular in pre-election periods, incites those who follow them to carry out discriminatory behaviour. This increases the radicalization and establishment of xenophobic political parties, thus normalizing the phenomenon. The disclosure of media monitoring activity and the publication of reports with data on hate speech makes citizens and politicians more aware of the hate speech usage, decreasing the normalization of the phenomenon.

Loop | Misinformation (Reinforcing loop)

The normalization of negative discourse towards some groups leads some media outlets to favour the publication of negative news mainly when they concern those marginalized groups. The dissemination of selected negative information amplifies the perception that only certain groups are involved in certain facts, creating a misperception of reality that reinforces stereotypical ideas towards those groups. The selection of negative information just when it concerns specific groups prompts the spread of fake news in multiple areas, which lead to disinformation and defamation about marginalized groups, and contribute to amplifying stereotypical ideas. 

Future directions: next steps in combating hate speech in Georgia

To address the hate speech phenomenon in Georgian reality, the government, media and civil society organizations must unify their efforts. While planning and implementing various activities to combat hate speech, it is essential to respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression and opinion and prevent the misuse of the restrictions.

  1. Self-regulation of hate speech

The vast majority of Georgian NGOs, media and the Public Defender of Georgia are concerned with the perspective of the hate speech regulation giving power to the state. The reason for the concern is the preservation of freedom of expression and opinion and the lack of trust in state institutions and the judiciary. Therefore, the Georgian stakeholders urge to take very cautious steps while discussing the limitations. The initiatives to address and combat hate speech must be discussed transparently and inclusively. It is recommended:

-          To initiate multi-stakeholder discussions on the ways to advance the functioning of the self-regulatory mechanisms.

-          To adopt codes of conduct for all state institutions or amend the existing ones to address hate speech, ensure it contains a clear definition of hate speech, and set up effective complaint-review mechanisms.

-          To initiate the multi-stakeholder discussions on determining obligation for online and print media to adopt relevant codes of conduct, a clear definition of hate speech and set up effective self-regulatory mechanisms.

  1. Definition of hate speech and the “interested party”

The Georgian legislation and the existing codes of conduct do not include a definition of hate speech, which creates uncertainty on how the relevant self-regulatory mechanisms define it while dealing with the complaints. It is also problematic that the legislation defines the “interested party” - a party who can submit a complaint to the broadcasters’ self-regulation - narrowly, thus hampering NGOs and other groups to submit complaints. It is recommended:

-          To Initiate multi-stakeholder discussions about the importance of defining hate speech and incorporating it in the relevant codes of conduct and/or legislation.

-          The parliament shall amend the definition of “interested party,” allowing a wide range of stakeholders, including the NGOs, to submit complaints to media self-regulatory mechanisms.

  1. Awareness-raising and advocacy

The primary source of discrimination and hate speech is the lack of respect for fundamental rights, the principles of equality, lack of respect for diversity, deeply rooted stereotypes, misinformation, and related factors. Often the minority groups are portrayed as “others” and a threat to national identity and traditions. Furthermore, in light of the rise of populist, xenophobic and homophobic groups, it is crucial for all stakeholders, state and non-state, to unite their efforts to fight hate speech and discrimination. It is recommended:

-          To promote diversity and speak up about the negative effect of hate speech. A wide range of state institutions should engage in such campaigns and cooperate closely with NGOs, Public Defender, and other stakeholders.

-          To facilitate intercultural dialogue and promote Georgia's historic heritage enriched by cultural diversity and the role of minorities in the country’s cultural, political, social, and economic life. Relevant state agencies, including the Ministry of Education, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality, Public Defender, media, NGOs, minority communities and other stakeholders shall engage in and facilitate this process.

-          State, NGOs, and media shall fight misinformation and negative stereotypes.

-          To raise awareness of police officers, judges, teachers and all relevant state servants on cultural diversity and equality values and the consequences of hate speech and discrimination.

  1. Role of media and internet

The dissemination of hate speech, in most cases, happens through media and the internet. On the other hand, these mediums can play a significant role in promoting equality and diversity, fighting disinformation and fake news, and confronting hate speech. It is recommended:

-          To raise awareness among journalists and improve education of future journalists, to improve their knowledge on hate speech, and promote collaboration between media, academia and civil society organisations.

-          The media should support the promotion of diversity and fundamental human rights.

-          The media should fulfil their public watchdog role in a democratic society and accurately and factually report on hate statements, but should avoid use of derogatory stereotypical depiction and be alert to the dangers of proliferating prejudice and hate speech.

-          The media should make their self-regulatory mechanism easily accessible to the public and enhance the complaint submission and review procedures.

  1. Education

Schools and universities can play a crucial role in fighting negative stereotypes and hate speech. The Georgian legislation ensures that the learning environment in public schools shall be non-discriminatory and religiously neutral. Despite this, the stakeholders raise concerns about frequent violations of these principles and the stereotypical perceptions held by public-school teachers. It is recommended:

-          The Ministry of Education and Science should develop a comprehensive approach to promote non-discrimination and extend the training on equality and tolerance to all public school teachers. The efficiency of such trainings and the relevant curricula shall be monitored and assessed by the Ministry.

-          The Ministry of Education and science should continue examining school textbook contents and approve school material that is free from discriminatory language and reflects cultural diversity.

-          The Ministry of Education and Science should ensure steady implementation of the Law on General Education and its requirements on secularity and non-discrimination. The Ministry should proactively monitor and respond to all forms of violation of the Law and the principles of equality.

-          The Ministry of Education and Science should cooperate with multiple stakeholders, including the Public Defender and NGOs in relevant fields, to ensure the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights in the sphere of public education.

-          The universities should adopt internal policies and codes of conduct, preventing and redressing hate speech and discrimination.

-          Plan formal and informal educational activities about misinformation and develop media literacy skills among teachers and students to expand a critical conscience about the news and narratives they encounter.

  1. Public officials, political parties and elections

Often the politicians and public figures, who ought to be on the frontline when promoting equal rights and diversity, disseminate hate speech targeting various vulnerable groups. The use of hate speech by political parties and their representatives is even more visible in the pre-election periods. The political parties do not have clear anti-discrimination policies. In addition, the number of political parties with openly extremist, xenophobic, and homophobic agendas increases. It is recommended:

-          The state officials should make clear public statements against the use of hate speech and promote cultural diversity and equality, and critically assess the cases of intolerance, discrimination and hate speech.

-          The political parties should elaborate clear anti-discrimination policies and self-regulation mechanisms to address hate speech by its representatives adequately.

-          The political parties should conduct training and various awareness-raising activities for their members on fundamental human rights and equality principles.

-          The president, members of the parliament, and the government should consider the possibility of using their mandate to apply to the Constitutional Court against the activities of those political parties that have a clear extremist agenda of inciting national, ethnic, religious or social strife.

-          Based on the regulations of the Electoral Code of Georgia that bans instigation of national, ethnic or religious hatred or conflict in the course of a pre-election campaign, the Central Election Commission should proactively monitor and respond to hate speech by political parties during the pre-election period.

-          The Parliament should amend the electoral legislation and increase the fine for instigation of national, ethnic or religious hatred or conflict in the course of a pre-election campaign so that the fine is rational and has a preventive effect.

  1. Law enforcement

According to the NGOs and the Public Defender, the hate motive is often ignored by the investigative bodies, the investigation is often procrastinated and many cases are prosecuted as ordinary crimes. Such an approach might signal acceptance of the hate motivation leading to the crime and decrease the trust in police and the justice system. The police in the execution of their duties must be free from stereotypes and bias and have a strict policy against hate crimes and discrimination. It is recommended:

-          The law enforcement agencies (including police, border police, investigators, prosecutors, etc.) should develop clear guidelines and codes of conduct for its staff on the inadmissibility of hate speech, discrimination, ethnic/racial profiling, and stereotypes; also should develop the skills of relevant staff members on cultural diversity and how to act ethically in a diverse environment.

-          The Ministry of Internal Affairs should further develop and integrate comprehensive courses within its police academy on human rights, non-discrimination and cultural diversity.

-          The law enforcement agencies should actively cooperate with NGOs and the public defender and initiate joint awareness-raising campaigns against hate speech and discrimination.

-          The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office should address hate crimes timely and effectively.

-          The Ministry of Internal Affairs should use the existing regulation of public incitement to violence with discriminatory motives (Article 2391 of the criminal code) more often, in all cases where there is sufficient evidence of such crimes.

-          The Parliament should adopt amendments to the Administrative Code of Offences and include hate motive as an aggravating circumstance for administrative misconducts.

  1. Hate speech monitoring

In order to analyse the root causes of hate speech and fight the phenomenon, it is essential to have comprehensive data on the dissemination, the targets, and authors of hate speech. There is no official state data on hate speech in Georgia; however, several NGOs and the Public Defender document examples of hate speech by journalists and politicians and release relevant reports. It is recommended:

-          Start a multi-stakeholder discussion and work out how to collect hate speech data and clarify who should be responsible for this activity.

-          Publish unified reports based on the hate speech monitoring and release them publicly.

-          The state should, in its monitoring efforts, take into account hate speech monitoring data collected by NGOs and, where possible, support NGOs efforts in that regard. It should also reflect on their findings and engage in multi-stakeholder discussion on how to address issues identified.

  1. Coordination of responses to hate speech

State and non-state stakeholders generally agree that the coordination of efforts is needed to combat hate speech. The process requires multi-stakeholder involvement, transparency, and accountability. It is recommended to set up a platform of coordination, including both public institutions and civil society. As an initial step, the platform could review the map and the recommended actions and define its working methods. It is recommended:

-          To enhance networking and collaborations among different entities in combating hate speech.

-          To create a space for discussion and debate on proposals for new actions to combat hate speech. 

-          To ensure that the voices of minority and other vulnerable groups are heard in this process. 

Appendix 1. Involvement of national stakeholders

The stakeholders involved in the activities related to the systemic mapping were:

State Institutions

        Central Election Commission

        Human Rights Secretariat of the Government

        Ministry of Education and Science

        Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia

        Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality

        Parliament of Georgia

        Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia

        Supreme Court of Georgia

        Office of the Public Defender (Ombudsperson) of Georgia

        Tolerance Center - under the Public Defender of Georgia

Media, communication and self-regulation

        Georgian Public Broadcaster

        The National Communication Commission

        The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics

Civil society actors

        Center for Participation and Development

        Coalition for Equality

        Equality Movement

        Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI) No to Phobia civil platform

        Georgian Young Lawyers Association

        Hayartun - cultural-educational youth center of the Armenian Church in Georgia

        Human Rights Research Center

        Institute for Democratic Changes (IDC)

        International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

        Media Development Foundation (MDF)

        National Council of Youth Organisations of Georgia

        Proactive Group Georgia

        Rights Georgia

        Salam - platform of ethnic Azerbaijani youth


        Social Justice Center

        Tbilisi Pride

        Tbilisi Shelter City

        Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)


        Union Century 21st

        Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG)

        Youth Association DRONI

        Zinc Network

Appendix 2. Bibliography

Pre-election monitoring, 2020, Media Development Foundation (MDF)

Hate speech 2019, Media Development Foundation (MDF)

Hate speech 2018, Media Development Foundation (MDF)

Hate Speech in Public Service, analysis of the Response Mechanism to Violations of Ethical Norms, 2019, Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)

Hate Speech by Public Authorities/State Officials & the issues of disciplinary punishment, 2014-2016, Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)

Freedom of Expression and Protection of Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary, Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), 2020

Parliament adopts Code of Ethics without effective sanctions, Transparency International Georgia

Attempts of the State to limit freedom of expression and to introduce liability for “insulting of religious feelings”, 2020, Freedom of Religion and Belief in Georgia, Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)

Racism and Xenophobia in Georgia - Rights of foreign nationals in Georgia, 2019, Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)

Combating hate speech - Guidelines for media, The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics

Financial Transparency of Media, 2019, Media Development Foundation (MDF)

Special Report of the Public Defender of Georgia on Combating and Preventing Discrimination and the State of Equality, 2019, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia

Special Report of the Public Defender of Georgia on Combating and Preventing Discrimination and the State of Equality, 2020, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia

ECRI Report on Georgia, fifth monitoring cycle, 2016

ECRI conclusions on the implementation of the Recommendations in Respect of Georgia Subject to Interim follow-up, 2019

ECRI General Policy Recommendation No.15, 2015

Freedom of Religion and Belief in Georgia, 2020-2021, Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)

Threat posed to freedom of expression in Georgia, 2019, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Legislative and Practical Challenges to Freedom of Expression in Georgian and Their Solution Based on International Standards, 2021, Rights Georgia


The Constitution of Georgia

The Law of Georgia on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination

The Law of Georgia on Freedom of Speech and Expression

The Criminal Code of Georgia

The Law of Georgia on Broadcasting

The Law of Georgia on Advertising

The Code of Conduct for Broadcasters

The Code of Conduct of Georgian Public Broadcaster

The Law of Georgia on Public Service

The General Rules of Ethics in Public Organizations

The Code of Ethics of the Members of the Parliament

The Election Code of Georgia

The Law of Georgia on General Education

Civil Code of Georgia

Appendix 3. Challenges explored in the multi-stakeholder workshop

What follows is the list of challenges identified through desk research and interviews with stakeholders, which were explored further during the multi-stakeholder workshops.

  1. How can we fight the normalization of hate speech towards women and the LGBTI community?
  2. How can we improve the education system in order to make the values of equality and tolerance shared as common ground?
  3. How might we increase the knowledge on hate speech and its consequences?
  4. How might we ease the process of reporting cases of hate speech?
  5. How might we reinforce the efficacy of broadcasters' self-regulatory bodies?
  6. How might we limit the use of hate speech by politicians?
  7. How might we agree and share on a single and comprehensive definition of hate speech?
  8. How might we define the boundaries between hate speech and freedom of expression?
  9. How might we improve the response to hate speech on social and online media?
  10. How might we prevent and mitigate the radicalization of some groups?
  11. How might we fight fake news?
  12. How might we deal with the narratives representing human rights as an imposition of the West?
  13. How might we fight the normalization of hate speech?
  14. How might we prevent the spreading of negative stereotypes at school?
  15. How might we provide positive counter-narratives about minorities to fight hate speech?
  16. How might we improve the access to quality services and education in minority regions?
  17. How might we increase the sensitivity and awareness of journalists about hate speech?
  18. How might we make the public servants' and Parliament's Codes of Ethics more effective?
  19. How might we improve the reaction to hate speech by politicians during pre-election campaigns?
  20. How might we ensure religious freedom and secular state principles?
  21. How might we help hate crime perpetrators to change?
  22. How might we help politicians to have a positive role?
  23. How might we filter hate speech statements and incitements to violence through the media?
  24. How might we fight hate speech in the media?

Appendix 4. Ideas for action discussed in the multi-stakeholder workshops

What follows is the list of future actions identified as useful through desk research and interviews with stakeholders and analysed in detail during the multi-stakeholder workshop, in order to define the priorities for future actions.


Trainings for teachers

Develop a complex approach, integrating existing activities with new ones, to extend the training on equality and tolerance to teachers, in particular teachers of civic education, social sciences, literature and history) so that they can become anti-discrimination ambassadors in public schools and universities.

Education on misinformation and media's role in spreading hate speech

Plan formal and informal educational activities on a national level about misinformation and the role of media in spreading stereotypes and hate speech, in order to develop in teachers and students a critical conscience about the news and narratives they encounter.

Include in curriculums contents on gender equality

Include in the school curriculum contents concerning gender equality principles.

Include Universities

Include Universities into teachers training and support the review of University textbooks.

Start from civic education

Invest more on the subject of civic education in order for it to be a platform where tolerance and equality values can be spread.

Monitor teacher training

Monitor teacher trainings regarding the attendance and results.


Raise awareness on hate speech and its effects

Promote awareness activities and informational campaigns on hate speech for different target audiences: what it is, what can be the online and offline usages, what are its effects and why we should not use it.

Spread alternative narrative about historic heritage

Create alternative narratives to highlight Georgia's historic heritage enriched by diverse cultures and by the political, cultural and economic role of minorities.

Raise journalists’ awareness

Raise awareness in future journalists improving their knowledge on hate speech and promote a collaboration between media and academia.

Raise awareness at the workplace

Raise awareness in public and private companies to avoid discrimination and hate speech at the workplace, in particular for public servants.

Use social media platforms creatively to engage youth

Use social media platforms in a creative way in order to raise awareness about hate speech, particularly to engage the younger generations.

Encourage positive statements by public figures

Encourage statements in support of equality by public figures such as politicians and religious leaders.


Advocacy for minorities

Promote advocacy campaigns to openly support and speak up in favor of minorities, especially by state officials.

React to hate speech cases

React firmly against hate speech statements, so that they do not run out of an adequate response.

Policies against radicalization

Support the creation of State policies to prevent radicalization.


Monitor hate speech to build policies

Monitor and identify the circulation of hate speech coordinating the collaboration among expert actors.

Publish reports on hate speech

Publish unified reports based on the hate speech monitoring and release them publicly.

Promote new policies

Base new preventive and anti-discrimination policies on monitoring data (who is the target, source, etc).

Monitor politicians’ statements

The MP's Council of Ethics should monitor and address the statements by the members of the parliament; The relevant government agencies shall monitor and address the hate speech by the public servants/officials.


Regulate activities of political parties

Promote self-regulatory mechanism of the political parties to address discrimination and hate speech.

Reinforce the response of the Central Election Commission

Improve the response of the Central Election Commission:

-           the sanctions they impose need to be stricter and the content has to be banished

-          propose a draft-law to fill the gap in the legislation so that the Central Election Commission can ask the Court to banish the content.

Anti-discrimination Memorandum

Propose memorandum for politicians and political parties affirming not to use discriminatory language.


Hate speech definition in Codes of Conducts

Include a definition of hate speech in the Ethic Codes.

Use CoE hate speech definition as a reference

Use a shared definition of hate speech provided by the CoE.

Initiate a discussion on the hate speech definition

Initiate public discussions about the importance of defining hate speech.


Discuss about online media self-regulations

Initiate public discussions about online media self-regulations and the possibility to introduce Codes of Conduct for internet providers /platforms.

Reduce hate speech visibility

Media should filter hate statements, not limiting freedom of expression, but not giving a lot of space to individuals who disseminate hate speech.


Extend the "interested party" definition

Advocate to extend the definition of "interested party" to present a complaint to a broadcaster's self-regulatory body, so that not only those who have been named personally can apply but also NGOs and, of course, those who are part of the attacked group.

Raise awareness of reporting rules

Raise awareness about the possibility to appeal directly to a media outlet self-regulatory body.

Reinforce self-regulatory mechanisms

Work to improve the efficiency of self-regulatory bodies.

Periodically check MP's Code of Ethics functioning

Make sure politicians' regulation on hate speech works.

Train journalists on self-regulatory mechanisms

Promote journalists training on the importance and functioning of self-regulatory mechanisms.


Police trainings

Provide training to police, with particular attention to those operating in regions with a higher presence of ethnic/religious minorities.

Identification of hate crime

Carry on research and investigation to detect hate motivations for crimes.

Monitor hate crimes

Monitor hate crimes cases and prosecution efficacy.

Collaboration among institutions dealing with hate crime

Promote continuous cooperation between the Prosecutor's office, Ministry of Interior and the courts to speak up about various cases of hate speech and to discuss the practices and the crimes motivated by intolerance in order to find common grounds among these actors.

[2]ECRI’s 5th country monitoring reports providing recommendations to member states on addressing hate speech are available at:

Council of Europe’s work on hate speech and some of the relevant standards are summarised at:

[3] Freedom of Religion or Belief in Georgian amid and during the Covid Pandemic, 2021

[4] Understanding and Combating Far-Right Extremism and Ultranationalism in Georgia, Democracy Research Institute, 2020

[5] Hate Speech, threats and disinformation prior to the “Pride Week”:

[6] Statement of the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, 29 June 2021 

[7]  Statement of the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, 3 July 2021

[8] Georgian Democracy Initiative, “March of Dishonor”, 2021

[9] Public Defender’s Statement on Investigation of Actions of Organizers of July 5-6 events

[10] Media Development Foundation, Hate Speech 2019

[11] Special Report of the Public Defender of Georgia on Combating and Preventing Discrimination and the State of Equality (2020)

[12] Threat posed to freedom of expression in Georgia, 2019, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

[13] ECRI Conclusions on the implementation of the Recommendations in Respect of Georgia Subject to Interim follow-up (2019).

[14] Coalition for Media Advocacy: the Communication Commission violates the law by reviewing the media program content, 2021. Available in Georgian 

[16] European Commission for Democracy through Law, Opinion on the amendments to the Law on Electronic Communications and the Law on broadcasting (2021), para. 70,


[18] The European experts had been working on the analysis within the two projects implemented by the GNCC: 1. EBRD-funded “Georgia: Information Communication Technology Sector Development” and the European Commission-funded “Support to the OSMEEAI and the GNCC in Approximation of Georgia’s Legislation to the AVMSD”

[19] Transparency International: GNCC Must not Regulate Hate Speech (2019)

[20] Based on the Parliament’s Ethics Council request, the Council of Europe and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) prepared the guidelines on the Code of Ethics of the Parliament of Georgia. The document provides commentaries on the ethical rules in line with the domestic legislation and Georgia’s international obligations, and among other issues, addresses discrimination and hate speech. The Council of Europe project “Fight against discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech in Georgia” had the leading role in preparing the hate speech and discrimination-related guidelines.

[23] Media Development Foundation (2020), Pre-election monitoring,

[24] Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Public School Textbooks, Tolerance and Diversity Institute

[25] ECRI report on Georgia (2016), para. 24