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New CEC regulations unacceptable to journalists

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, September 26
Filming inside the polling stations on the election date remains restricted for journalists. The Central Election Commission (CEC) passed a final decision concerning the issue late on September 24.

The decision was passed by 13 members of the CEC with 10 votes against 2. Only coalition Georgian Dream representatives did not vote for the decision (from Conservative and Industrials’ party). The document was signed by the opposition Christian-Democrat’s representative.

According to the final version, cameramen and photographers, as well as observers and party representatives, will be able to move freely and film from anywhere inside the polling station (except the voting booth) for ten minutes; after ten minutes, they will have to work from a specially allocated place within the precinct and continue filming from there.

The CEC decision specifies that a ballot box should be visible from this specially allocated place. However, there is one more thing…if a cameramen or journalist leaves the precinct for any reason he will not be able to come back inside.

Based on the final version, those people who have the right to film in the polling stations will be able to film and take photos of pre-voting procedures before the opening of the polling stations and post-vote procedures, including ballot count. However, a chairperson of the precinct election commission should select a place not closer than three meters from an object which is filmed where from the cameramen will be able to fulfill their jobs.

Based on the initial version represented by the CEC, only 5 minutes would be foreseen for journalists and others to film inside the polling station.

After making the decision, majoritarian candidate of the Christian-Democratic Movement in the Gldani district, Inga Grigolia, announced the termination of her candidacy. Grogolia had voiced before the discussion that everyone would be “her enemy who would vote for the CEC document.”

“Despite the fact that the recently adopted version significantly differs from what was represented beforehand by the CEC, I was sure that the representatives of the Christian-Democratic Movement would not have participated in the voting process. I stated about it… thus, I keep my promise and remove my candidacy,” Grigolia said on her Facebook page.

Fellow member of the movement, Levan Vepkhvadze claims that Grigolia was delieveed disinformation concerning the final version and that she would “necessarily look over her decision.” He has also underscored that Grigolia can not remove her candidacy as a term for making such a decision through the law has already expired.

Vepkhvadze called “achievement” to that final version and emphasized that due to the decision, journalists will be able to carry out filming during the whole voting process.

Coalition Georgian Dream representative, Eka Beselia called it shameful on behalf of the CEC with regard to their decision and emphasized that Grigolia’s decision was absolutely timely, adequate and principled.

“Through voting for such a shameful document, certain political parties finally revealed their true colors…” Beselia said.

Journalists are protesting the decision and call it absurd. Based on journalist Shorena Shaverdashvili, all those points which were elaborated and accepted by the CEC are targeted to restrict journalists being present at the polling stations.

“Just imagine when a group works inside the polling station and there is some disturbance outside. If a group comes out to film the issue it will not be allowed to go back inside… this is one of the examples that those regulations are aimed to restrict our being there,” Shaverdashvili stated.

She has also underscored that the regulations would impose more chaos on the polling stations. “It is practically impossible to inform and train all the chairs of the polling stations and observers concerning the new regulations. When the chairs and observers are not accordingly informed regarding the new changes it will cause problems for journalists and for all on the polling stations,”Shaverdashvili said, adding that the journalists would try their best to make the CEC change the decision before the elections take place.

During the demonstrations, several journalists met with the CEC chair, Zurab Kharatishvili. However, the meeting did not provide any concrete outcome. Journalists are demanding another meeting with Kharatishvili and the elaboration of such recommendations which would be approved and signed by media representatives. It is not still decided whether Kharatishvili will meet with the journalists or not.

Chair of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri stated that CEC decision means “unprecedented restrictions,” for journalists. Gigauri told The Messenger that the election legislation regulated the election process and there was no need of additional prohibitions. She shares a view that those regulations might create a further mess in the polling stations.

“I have already trained my 300 observers and due to the hastened changes I will have to take some additional steps... However, more problems will be regarding the foreign observers, their numbers are many and it would be difficult to inform all of them concerning the new regulations. It is also unclear why the media is not going to be allowed back inside the polling station if it temporally leaves... what is the point of accreditation then?” Gigauri stated and underscored that the journalists and NGOs would fight to achieve some changes in this regard.