The Central Election Commission (CEC) has passed a decision introducing regulations for filming inside polling stations during the voting day imposing less restriction than initially proposed.
The decision was passed by 13-member CEC shortly before the midnight on September 24 with 10 votes to two. CEC members from the Conservative Party and Industrialists, both within the Georgian Dream coalition, voted against, citing that there was no need to introduce any regulations for making video recordings and taking photos inside polling stations on the election day. CEC members from ruling party, UNM, as well as Christian-Democratic Movement were among those who voted in favor; Labor Party representative was absent.
Initial proposal was offering to give journalists and others, authorized to be present inside the precinct, only five minutes to film and take pictures of the voting inside polling station.
According to the final version, which was passed, cameramen and photographers, as well as observers and party representatives, will be able to move freely and take shots from anywhere inside the polling station (except of voting booth) for ten minutes; after those ten minutes expire, they will have to take a specially designated place within the precinct and continue filming from there or journalists will have to leave the polling station; the CEC decision specifies that a ballot box should be visible from this specially designated place. If a cameraman or a photographer decides to leave this specially designated place, he/she won’t be able to return to that place in the same polling station and continue filming. If a cameraman/photographer violates these rules, members of precinct election commission will have to decide to expel him/her from polling station with majority vote.
CEC Chairman, Zurab Kharatishvili, said that these regulations would not apply to making video recordings and taking photos with a mobile phone.
According to new regulations, 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 of precinct election commission 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.
Critics say that the passed decision, especially a provision allowing filming only from a single specially designated place inside polling station, will limit possibility of significantly limit observers’ ability to capture on video possible violations inside polling stations.
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 law, however, also adds that it should take place without hindering a voting process. Citing this provision, the election administration says that the new regulations aim to provide such a condition inside polling station, wherein filming and taking photos will not hinder the voting process.