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CEC to implement new restrictions on pooling station filming

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, September 25
The Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) is considering adopting new regulations on processing photo-video recordings on polling days.

A new project was presented at a CEC session on September 23rd. However, no decision could be made; therefore the discussions had to be postponed until the next session, which is planned for September 24th.

The new project of regulations is opposed by media representatives, as well as by lawyers in the country, which claim that accepting the new restrictions on photo-video recording will create a violation of the Election Code and the country's constitution.

Media organizations acting in the Adjara region have already organized a protest rally and also forwarded all necessary information to OCSE observers based in Batumi. Journalists in Adjara called the observers to provide the CEC with recommendations to make sure media sources will be allowed to conduct their jobs on polling day.

It is doubtless that making the whole election process public is in the interest of society, as well as in the interest of all media sources. The publicity of elections is ensured by Article 8 of the Election Code, which states the following:

1. The entire electoral process, activities of the election administration, the sources and the amount of funding of the election participants and the election-related expenses shall be open and public.

2. The open and public conduct of elections is safeguarded by the election legislation.

The head of the CEC, Zurab Kharatishvili, commented during the session that it is necessary to convert the current regulations in accordance with the Venice Commission recommendations.

Kaharatishvili refers to a Joint Opinion on the Election Code of Georgia, adopted by the Council for Democratic Elections and by the Venice Commission back in 2008. Article 125 of the same document states as follows:

“As noted earlier, both the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission do not recommend the use of video cameras in polling stations due to the possible intimidation of voters– even if video cameras are not directed at polling booths.“

As CEC explains new regulations do not aim to establish new restrictions, but to ensure the comfort of voters.

Tamar Kordzaia, the Executive Director of the Journalists Ethic Charter, brought an interpretation of Venice Commission recommendations and explained that, the recommendations were issued only regarding observation cameras, not about making records by media sources.

Lela Taliuri, from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) also confirmed that recommendations issued by Venice Commission and the OSCE was only regarding the observing cameras, which used to be installed in polling rooms (not in the voting booth itself) earlier, but now these cameras have been removed, so recommendations have been met already. As Taliuri revealed in an interview with Radio Liberty, she was attending the CEC session on September 23rd and as she revealed that the project contains a regulation allowing a media organization to make photo-video recordings only for 5 minutes, and this is only after the head of the precinct’s election commission grants the permission to do so.

The implementation of new regulations was opposed by several members of the CEC, including Nino Goguadze from the Conservative party. As she commented, journalists may lose all chances to reveal violations or fraud on a polling day.

The new project was discussed again, on September 24th, during a meeting of the CEC with NGOs and media organizations. As participants of the meeting commented, the list of restrictions is so large that any kind of filming on a polling station is made simply impossible. They strictly recommend the CEC to cancel project.

There are 13 members in CEC, seven of them are appointed by political parties and other 6 members are formally non-partisan representatives. 9 votes are required to pass the new project or regulations.

Note: By the time this paper went to print the meeting at CEC was still ongoing, therefore no final decision had been available.