TBILISI, DFWatch – A court in Georgia has ruled that the Central Election Commission’s decision to establish tight regulations for media on Election Day are legal. The rules in practice make it impossible to take photos and videos at election precincts.
Under the current law, journalists have the right to take photos and video without any restrictions. But a week before Election Day, CEC decided to prohibit the taking of photos or video inside precincts, based on the argument that it will disturb voters while they are making up their mind.
Recently, the largest opposition bloc said photos and film from inside precincts would make it possible to prove whether the government conducted fraud in the election. Shortly afterwards, the CEC started its work on introducing the new de facto photo ban.
Local non-government organizations opposed CEC’s decision by holding rallies in front of the commission’s office. Then, CEC slightly modified its decision, but the rules remain pretty strict towards what degree of freedom the media has while working inside precincts.
The new rules make it prohibited to take photos or video of a voting booth from any distance. Earlier you could prove with photo or video that several people were in one cabin at the same time, including voter, member of commission or party, but today this is prohibited.
Media is only allowed to record commission member, party representative or observer only outside the district, which means it will be impossible to record them, because a commission member has a specific function and doesn’t have the opportunity to leave the district.
There have been allocated special places for media and election observers from where they can film and take pictres.
The rules also states that media and observers have a right to be there as long as they want, but if they leave the spot with at least one step or leave the district at least once, then they will be prohibited from taking photos or video the whole day. This means that if you want to send photographic material from a precinct, journalists will have to leave, but will then be unable to go back and continue shooting.
One media outlet representative has only ten minutes to freely take footage during voting day and if they will want to make footage then they should stay at this special place, which is at least three meters away from the subject. This place should be allocated so that the election box is seen, but anyone can stand in front of it and put ballot papers into it, but no one will have a right to go to a place from which this process is well seen, as the commission makes a decision to throw them out of the precinct.
The NGOs appealed this decision in court and requested to have it overturned because it contradicts legislation, in their opinion.
But the court didn’t agree and rejected their appeal. The strict rules will therefore remain in force on October 1.