Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Tbilisi-based legal advocacy and watchdog group, has called on the authorities to drop plans banning media outlets to film inside the Parliament building.
It has emerged this week that new parliamentary rules and regulations, currently being drafted by the ruling party lawmakers, may ban cameramen from media outlets to film inside the new Parliament building in Kutaisi.
According to MP Khatuna Gogorishvili, chairperson of parliamentary committee on rules and procedures, the new parliamentary chamber and rooms for committee hearings would be equipped with cameras and footage would be available for all the media outlets. Journalists will still be able to attend hearings both in committees and parliamentary sessions, but no cameramen.
Now cameramen from media outlets can attend and film both committee hearings and parliamentary session. There have been cases when journalists’ cameras captured ‘ghost voting’, wherein a lawmaker casts vote instead of an absent colleague.
In a statement on February 7 GYLA called on the Parliament to take measure for increasing transparency of its work and address irregularities, including cases of ‘ghost voting’, rather than imposing restrictions on journalists’ work inside the Parliament.
“We hope, that Parliament’s new regulations will be directed not against worsening of existing standards of transparency, but towards their improvement,” the watchdog groups said.
According to MP Gogorishvili the new regulations, part of which will go into force after the Parliament’s relocation to Kutaisi this year and another part after the new constitution goes into force in late 2013, is likely to also envisage lessening sanctions for such irregularity like missing parliamentary sittings or ‘ghost voting’ and it can be punished by seizing not the entire monthly salary of a lawmaker, but only 10 or 20%.
The new regulations may also introduce new rules in respect of boycotting the parliamentary sessions so that not to allow a lawmaker not to perform duties under the pretext of boycotting the Parliament. Currently four members of opposition Labor Party, including its leader Shalva Natelashvili, are formally lawmakers since 2008 elections. They, however, have not attended a single parliamentary session or committee hearing, neither participated in any other parliamentary-related activity, citing that they boycott this Parliament because consider it illegitimate. Several opposition politician renounced their MP credentials in 2008 in protest over what they said was election fraud; Labor Party members although retained their MP credential, but announced a boycott.
The Parliament’s spring session was opened on February 7 with a sitting of its bureau, the body united senior lawmakers, which determines the parliamentary sessions’ agenda. Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Bakradze, said that the spring session would have a busy agenda, as lawmakers would not be able to work with regular schedule during the autumn session because of parliamentary elections in October.