The Central Election Commission (CEC) will discuss on September 24 a controversial proposal, which, if approved, will impose tough restrictions on making video recordings and taking photos inside the polling stations during the voting on the October 1 parliamentary elections.
The proposal was first discussed at CEC session on September 23, triggering protest of local election watchdog, civil society groups and media representatives; CEC had to postpone discussions for Monday evening.
Election code allows making video and photographic recordings inside the polling station to journalists and others, who have the right to be present at the precinct, on the election day; the election code only bans to make recordings inside voting booths.
According to the proposal each accredited media outlet will be able to make video and photo recordings only for five minutes during the voting process at a polling station. But it will happen only if a chairperson of a precinct election commission allows it after receiving consent from voters who will be present at the time inside the polling station, according to the proposal.
Journalists will be able to take videos and photos when political leaders or other high-profile figures show up at polling stations to cast ballot; after that recording equipment should be taken away from polling stations.
Journalist and other persons, who have the right to be present at polling stations, will be able to film and take photos of pre-voting procedures taking place before the opening of polling stations and post-vote procedures, involving ballot count; a chairperson should select a place from where filming and taking photos will take place, which should not be closer than three meters from an object which will be filmed, according to the proposal.
The proposal bans making video recordings and taking photos “in entrance/exits” of the polling stations.
CEC Chairman, Zurab Kharatishvili, said that the proposal sets only “small frames” for filming and taking pictures during the voting. He says that filming inside the polling station may restrict expression of a voter’s free will during casting a ballot. He, however, also acknowledged that there was a high public interest towards the voting process, which should not be restricted as well.
“This issue requires no additional regulation,” said Tamar Chugoshvili, head of the Tbilisi-based legal advocacy group, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association. “It will be a step backwards and a serious blow for transparency of the electoral process, if the CEC passes this [proposal].”
13-member CEC requires nine votes to pass the proposal.
Seven members of CEC are appointed by political parties – the ruling UNM party; Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM); a small party European Democrats; little-known Christian-Democratic People’s Party (these three latter parties ran jointly in a bloc during the local elections under CDM’s umbrella and were able to gain seats in CEC); Labor Party; Industrialist Party and Conservative Party. Industrialist Party and Conservative Party are now part of Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition Georgian Dream. Six remaining CEC members are formally non-partisan representatives.