Audit Service Applies increased Pressure on Pre-Election Ads
23 August, 2012
Audit Service Applies increased Pressure on Pre-Election Ads

State Audit Agency’s new order to impose double burden on transparency of pre-election advertising campaign is redundant and illegal, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association believes and appeals to the Audit Service to revoke the order. 

According to the new order of the Audit Agency issued on August 6, 2012, political parties sending advertising rolls and adds through Georgian broadcast and printing media must pay advertising costs a week ahead of placing the adds in question. On the other hand, the referred media

must disclose the payment records no later than 24 hours after payment has been made.

Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) believes the new order of the State Audit Agency is tantamount to interfering in private business relationships that falls beyond the legal framework. The point is that regulation of advertising procedures, agreements made by electoral subjects for placement of political ads on TV and in newspapers, type and amount of payment does not fall under the competence of the questioned agency and are rightly regulated by Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) in pursuance with the Georgian Election Code and law on Georgian Broadcast. Therefore duplication of GNCC function by the state audit service seems quite redundant and illegal.

“It is the right of parties to settle these issues and it does not fall under the scope of government’s regulation. The order cites several irrelevant articles as legal grounds. According to these Articles, the agency is authorized to regulate procedures pertinent to transparency of information about party finances. Determining rules for conducting business relations and making payments is well beyond the authority to determine rules of transparency and falls outside legal frameworks,” GYLA experts say.

Besides these regulations contradict the law and provide for unjust prohibitions respective to electoral subjects. In individual cases, they may also act as artificial barriers for electoral subjects. As a matter of fact the State Audit Agency did not provide any concrete grounds and the clear target why this twofold obligation on media [on keeping the government informed about placement of pre-election ads] is so necessary.

According to Georgian Election Code, GNCC regulates participation of media in election process. It ensures monitoring of broadcasters’ compliance with applicable norms and acts on violations of these norms. The same law regulates the media behavior to make information public as well as inform the GNCC about adds allocation during specific periods. They give exact dates, frequency, length of airtime allocated on a daily basis and corresponding schedule, TV ad rates, and the provided service. The information is published only by newspapers funded from the state and local budgets.

Public administrative proceedings are ongoing at the GNCC for passing a resolution on “adoption of rules for participation of media in pre-election process and its utilization”.  According to the draft resolution, a broadcaster will be held liable pursuant to the law of Georgia on Broadcasting for violation of Audit service’s order of the August 6, 2012. The law on broadcasting envisages warning, fine, and suspension of license as types of sanction.

GYLA believes that the double monitoring of media in pre-election issues by two different public agencies is unjustifiable. Additional responsibilities before the State Audit Service will be a heavy burden for media organizations.

“Media in its turn participates in pre-election processes with high intensity and controlling activities of media must be the sole responsibility of the GNCC,” they say. Therefore the non-governmental watchdog calls on the State Audit Service to abolish the illegal act adopted on August 6 immediately.

Broadcasters and opposition political parties claim the new rule will hamper advertising process as parties frequently pay after ads are placed and payment in installments is an adopted practice. GYLA offers its service to all election subjects, broadcasters and newspapers that are affected by the foregoing prohibitions if they apply to court to make the new act void. However, nobody appealed to GYLA as of yet.

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