Fourth Mid-term Report of Georgia’s Parliamentary Pre-electoral Media Monitoring of October 8, 2016 (09.09.2016 – 22.09.2016)

October 06, 2016 16:20

On June 8, 2016, GNCC has launched monitoring of pre-electoral period of the Georgian Parliamentary Elections of October 8, 2016, and will carry out the monitoring of 53 TV companies 24/7 during the period of four months.

All general broadcasters fell under the subject of monitoring, including Public Broadcaster and the Public Broadcaster of Adjara. Subjects of Commission’s observations during the monitoring process are:

a) Pre-election advertising;

b) Pre-election debates;

c) News and social-political programs;

d) Pre-election agitation.

Information about direct and indirect airtime allocated specifically for election subjects during news programs has been added to an above-mentioned report. Within the scope of direct time allocation, are analyzed such instances, when election subject/candidate directly speaks/participates in the program, as for an indirect time allocation, the time devoted by a broadcaster speaking of election subjects/candidates and their supporters is being analyzed. In the lengthy document of the third media monitoring report, direct time allocated for a political subject is indicated in blue, as for the indirect – in a red color.

The fourth mid-term report of pre-electoral process covers the period from September 9, 2016, up until September 22, 2016. Following violations have been detected as a result of the monitoring: 

11 TV companies have published results related to public opinion polls violating the rules.

GNCC has already drawn a protocol of public administrative offenses related to the violation of the rules of  publication of public opinion poll results to 12 companies and has transferred them to the relevant city (regional) courts for further dispute resolution.

These TV Companies are:

“Broadcasting Company Rustavi 2” Ltd;

NNLE “Civic Education Funbd” – brand name “Tabula”;

“TV Imedi” Ltd;

“Starvizia” Ltd;

“TV-Radio Company of Qvemo Kartli” Ltd;

“TV-Radio Company Trialeti” Ltd;

“TV-Radio Corporation InfoUnion – TV Argo” Ltd;

“TV-Radio Company Rioni” Ltd;

“Independent TV-Radio Company Odishi” Ltd;

“Studio Maestro” Ltd;

“1st Stereo” Ltd;

“David Agmashenebeli University of Georgia” Ltd. 

We are talking about publication of public opinion poll results related to the elections carried out by  „GFK“  (23.08.2016) commissioned by TV Company “Rustavi 2” and by „GMP” (03.09.2016) commissioned by TV Company “Imedi.”

In accordance with Paragraph 11 of Article 51 of the Organic Law of Georgia “on Elections” during the publication of public opinion poll results, additionally, the following shall be published as well:

a) It shall be based on the acknowledged scientific methodology of representative random selection, which provides 95% credibility and the margin of errors not exceeding 3%;

b) It shall be publicized after double-checking of the credibility of the methodology of public opinion poll and objectiveness of its results;

c) It shall be feasible to provide steady scientific explanation, in case there are significant discrepancies or changes in the results of the same or other comparative public opinion poll;

d) It shall not constitute a means of manipulating with public opinion or fundraising and it shall not be conducted via telephone, post or/ and internet;

e) It shall be based on transparent methodology, which enables to conduct independent verification of the results;

f) While publishing the results, the following shall be indicated:

f.a) an organization conducting public opinion poll;

f. b) subject ordering or financing the public opinion poll;

f. c) exact formulation and sequence of questions used for opinion polls;

f.d) the time of conducting field opinion poll;

f.e) the number of individuals interviewed and the selection method;

f.f) in which area or category of people the selection was conducted;

f.g) whether the research is based on the opinion of people interviewed;

f.h) the number of respondents, who refused to participate in the poll, did not answer the question, or could not be interviewed;

f.i) margin of selection;

f.j) margin of errors;

f.k) information on any other important factors, which might have caused significant impact on the results. 

The Commission has detected facts related to the violation of the rules of publication of pre-election public opinion poll results during first mid-term media monitoring (08.06.2016-08.07.2016). The publication of public opinion poll results by the majority of broadcasters that fell under media monitoring have published results violating rules defined by the law. Therefore, the Commission has released a warning statement and has called upon broadcasters to take into consideration obligations defined in the Organic Law of Georgia “on Elections” for the future. Despite above-mentioned warning and explanation, still, the majority of the broadcasters have published public opinion poll results related to the elections with violations.

In accordance with Article 82 of the Organic Law of Georgia “on Election Code of Georgia” The promulgation of the results of the public opinion poll, conducted in relation to the elections, within the term defined by law without the required information, or violation of other rules related to its promulgation, shall be fined in the amount of 1500 GEL.

The program is placed through the broadcasting net of “Akhali Saqartvelo” whose co-anchor is independent candidate for majority – Hamlet Gegia.

The Commission believes, that in order to ensure just, impartial and balanced coverage of the pre-electoral campaign, it is important, that the broadcaster, during the coverage of any electoral subject,  stresses its attention on those guidelines and recommendations which are defined by the Commission’s approved resolution N2 of March 12, 20019, “On Code of Conduct for Broadcasters” and refrain from participating in social-political, news or informational programs of an official or a member of a political party in the form of   an anchor, interviewer or a journalist. The Commission believes, that above-mentioned requirements apply to independent candidates for majority participating in the elections as well. Accordingly, the Commission calls all the broadcasters to refrain from participating of the member of a political party, an official or  an independent candidate for majority in the form of an anchor in the programs.

Number of broadcasters have been outlined that haven’t been placing news and/or social/political themed programs through their broadcasting nets. (International Information Agency Evrazia Ltd, “Saperavi TV” Ltd, “TV Company Tbilisi” Ltd, “TV-Radio Company TV 24 Ltd, TV-Company 1st Stereo Ltd).

In accordance with Sub-paragrapf f) of Article 2 of the Georgian law “on Broadcasting” General broadcasting is the broadcasting of programs with at least two themes, including news and social-political themes.

The administrative proceedings to be launched at the Commission against above-mentioned companies for the purpose to impose administrative responsibilities

The Commission has drawn a protocol of administrative offenses on newspaper “Tkibuli” already twice, the case has been reviewed by the city court.

Based on a claim submitted to the Commission by “Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association” the Commission has drawn a protocol of administrative offenses on newspaper “Tkibuli” once again for the violation of rules related to pre-election agitation and advertising and has transferred it to the city court (Kutaisi) for the further resolution of the dispute. The court, on its hand, has issued a written warning upon the newspaper “Tkibuli.”  

In the August issue of the newspaper “Tkibuli” an agitation letter was published by an MP of Tkibuli Elguja Gotsiridze for the political union “Georgian Dream” – “Democratic Georgia” which didn’t indicate whether the published material was paid or free political advertisement.

In accordance with the resolution №9 of GNCC of August 15, 2016, of the Organic Law of Georgia “on Election Code” and “on participation of media in pre-electoral process and rules of its application,” while publishing an agitation letter, before the headline of the letter and in the corner of an advertisement, there must be an inscription "paid political advertising" or "free political advertising.

The Commission has drawn a protocol of administrative offenses on newspaper “Tianetis Momavali.”

GNCC ” has drawn a protocol of administrative offenses on newspaper “Tianetis Momavali” for the violation of rules related to pre-election agitation and advertising and has transferred it to the city court (Mtskheta) for the further resolution of the dispute. The court, on its hand, has issued a written warning upon the newspaper “Tianetis Momavali.” 

In the August issue of the newspaper “Tianetis Momavali” an agitation letter was published by an MP of the political union “Georgian Dream” – “Democratic Georgia” – Zakaria Kutsnashvili,  which didn’t indicate whether the published material was paid or free political advertisement.

In accordance with the resolution №9 of GNCC of August 15, 2016, of the Organic Law of Georgia “on Election Code” and “on participation of media in pre-electoral process and rules of its application,” while publishing an agitation letter, before the headline of the letter and in the corner of an advertisement, there must be an inscription "paid political advertising" or "free political advertising.

The weekly information is not being presented to the Commission from the number of newspapers that are financed from the State Budget of Georgia. 

In accordance with sub-paragraph 2 of Paragraph 50 of the Organic Law of Georgia “on Election Code of Georgia” From the moment of announcement of elections until the sum up of election results, newspapers, funded by central or local budgets, fall under media monitoring. With a regard to above-mentioned, GNCC has requested information about newspapers financed by local or central budgets from the Ministry of Finance of Georgia, the municipal representatives and executive bodies and Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Adjara. As a result of processing of the data obtained, 30[1]  newspapers fell under the pre-electoral media monitoring during the Parliamentary Elections of Georgia of October 8, 2016. (Information about newspapers is available at the Commission’s web-site).

The request to ensure monitoring during pre-election period has been sent to all newspapers in accordance with requirements of Annex №2 to submit information of the Commission’s resolution №9 of August 15, 2016, of the Organic Law of Georgia “on Election Code” and “on participation of media in pre-electoral process and rules of its application” however, 10 newspapers, despite the fact that they have received Commission’s letter, still, do not present the information.

The noted newspapers are: Municipality of Akhalkalaki – newspaper “Regional Tribune”; Municipality of Akhalkalaki – newspaper “TvitMmartveloba”; Municipality of Oni – newspaper “Oni”; Municipality of Tkibuli – newspaper “Tkibuli”; Municipality of Ninotsminda – newspaper “Arshulsi”; Municipality of Gurjaani – newspaper “Gurjaanis Municipalitetis Matsne”;  Municipality of Lentekhi – newspaper”Svaneti”; Municipality of Gori – newspaper “Goris Matsne”; Municipality of Vani – newspaper “Saerto Sitkva”; Municipality of Tsalenjikha – newspaper “Egrisis Matsne.”

For the purpose of fulfillment of the obligations imposed upon the Commission by current law, the Commission attempted test purchases by the means of private companies, however, press companies on the market have no information in regard to the noted newspapers in their lists, that is to why the Commission once again addressed municipalities and has asked to present the newspapers. 

The newspapers that present pre-election information: Municipality of Kaspi – newspaper “Akhali Gantiadi”; Municipality of DedoplisTskaro – newspaper” Shiraqi”; Municipality of Terjola – newspaper “Terjola’; Municipality of Bagdadi – newspaper “Chemi Gazeti”; Municipality of Tianeti – newspaper “Tianetis Momavali”; Municipality of Ambrolauri – newspaper “ Ambrolauris Moambe’’; Municipality of Tskaltubo – newspaper “Akhali Tskaltubo”; Municipaliyu of Samtredia – newspaper “ Samtrediis Matsne” Municipality of Kvareli – newspaper “Kvareli”; Municipality of Bolnisi - newspaper “Bolnisi”; Municipality of Mtskheta – newspaper “Mtskheta”; Municipality of Senaki – newspaper “Kolkheti”; Municipality of Akhmeta – newspaper “Bakhtrioni”; Municipality of Khashuri – newspaper “Khashuris Moambe”; Autonomous Republic of Adjara – “Newspaper Ajara and Adjara” Ltd; Municipality of Qareli- newspaper –“ Qarelis Moambe”; Municipality of Abasha – newspaper “Abashis Matsne”; Municipality of Signagi – newspaper “Signagi”; Municipality of Kharagauli – NNLE “ Municipal Center of Citizen’s Prticipation and Awareness”; Municipality of Khobi – newspaper “Khobis Moambe.” 

Recommendations:

Non-political programs are placed in the airtime of “Rustavi2” such as “Vano’s Show” and “Nanuka Zhorzholiani’s Show,” during the reporting period,  these programs have had gusts -Paata Burchuladze ( State for People), Shalva Natelashvili (Labour Party) and David Usupashvili (The Republicans).

The Commission believes, that in order to ensure just, impartial and balanced coverage of the pre-electoral campaign, it is important, that a broadcaster, during the coverage of any electoral subject, stresses its attention on those guidelines and recommendations which are defined by the Commission’s approved resolution N2 of March 12, 20019, “On Code of Conduct for Broadcasters” and take into consideration that participation of a candidate or a member of the party in a program which has no direct connection to the politics is possible only in such cases if negotiations about participating in the program have taken place before electoral period. A candidate should not be able to express his/her political opinions or advertise his/her candidacy in any other way;

 

It should be noted, that in above-mentioned programs interviewer’s were expressing their political opinions.

Other activities  carried out by the Commission related to pre-electoral period:

The Commission has reviewed a claim submitted by the “United National Movement” against TV Companies “Studio Maestro” Ltd, “TV Imedi” Ltd, “GDS” Ltd and “Rustavi2” Ltd.

GNCC, based on a claim submitted by the political party “United National Movement” has examined an ad placed through the broadcasting nets of TV Companies   “Studio Maestro” Ltd, “TV Imedi” Ltd, “GDS” Ltd and “Rustavi2” Ltd which was related to the recovery of two-way street of A. Pushkin’s street in Tbilisi.

The author organizations of the statement have considered, that an ad had signs of pre-election political advertising and represented election campaign of infrastructural projects of the political union “Georgian Dream” financed from the state budget, which is prohibited. The political union  has requested GNCC to study and determine the status of an above-mentioned ad.

After examining an issue, the Commission has determined that an ad noted  placed through the broadcasting nets of TV Companies - “Studio Maestro” Ltd, “TV Imedi” Ltd, “GDS” Ltd and “Rustavi2” Ltd was commissioned by the City Hall of Tbilisi placed with a status of paid advertising by means of advertising companies. 

The public hearing session of an issue was presented by the representatives of all fout TV Companies. According to their statements, video ad commissioned by the City Hall that has been through their broadcasting nets was in compliance with the Georgian law “on Broadcasting.” In accordance with the law, an administrative body is authorized to purchase broadcasting services for the purpose to inform public regarding significant events.

In accordance with the Organic Law of Georgia “on Election Code of Georgia” political/pre-election advertisement is an advertisement distributed by means of mass media of such content, which intends the promotion/hindering of electoral subject, where electoral subject is shown or his/her election sequence number and consists of signs of pre-election campaign or calls for referendum / plebiscite for or against the decision on an issue.

In the video ad, public is being informed about the recovery of two-way street of A. Pushkin’s street in Tbilisi. No electoral subject, nor his/her election sequence number is being shown in the video, therefore, no identification of any electoral subject has been carried out, neither a display of any political party symbol.

In accordance with the Georgian law “on Broadcasting” an administrative body has an authority to purchase broadcasters services for the placement of a social ad within a scope of a length of time beyond the minimum level time frame defined by Article 65 of the same law for the purposes of placement of social ad/distribution of information of public importance and only in such instances, if it is defined aside by the separate article of its budget. In case, if the administrative authority is purchasing organization, the procurement shall be carried out in accordance with rules established by the Georgian law “on Government Procurement.” 

The Commission has reviewed a statement of an MP of Mtatsminda of the “United National Movement” – Nikoloz Rurua.

On September 16, 2016, an MP of Mtatsminda of the “United National Movement” – Nikoloz Rurua has addressed the commission with a statement noting, that on September 12, 2016, he has been invited to participate in the program “Gia Eteri” by the TV Company “Imedi TV” however, due to his busy schedule, Rurua was unable to participate in the program and “Imedi TV” has been informed in regard to this fact. An author of the statement believes, that due to his non-participation in the program, within the scope of the survey, viewer’s assessed only candidates that have been presented during the program, which, on its hand, led to the publication of incorrect survey results, therefore, he has been placed through unequal conditions, which,  in applicant's opinion is the violation of the principles of non-discrimination, fairness and impartiality as defined in the “Code of Conduct for the Broadcasters.”  

In regard to this issue, the Commission has explained, that in accordance with Article 14 of the Georgian law “on Broadcasting” a broadcaster shall establish, on the basis of the Code of Conduct, an effective mechanism of self-regulation for internal review of and timely and justified response to complaints, also, in accordance with Article 591  of the Georgian law “on Broadcasting” Issues related to interpretation of the norms as well as ethical norms and professional standards set forth by the Code of Conduct, as well as decisions made within the self-regulation mechanism defined by Paragraph 1 of Article 14 of this Law shall not be appealed to a court, GNCC or any other administrative body. Therefore, response on the possible violations of ethical norms and professional standards set forth by the Code of Conduct shall be carried out only within the scope of the self-regulation mechanism defined by Paragraph 1 of Article 14 of present law.  

 


[1] Within the scope of the study, it has been revealed, that newspaper of the Municipality of Kutaisi - “Qimerioni” covers only cultural news.