#05 PREVENT DISCRIMINATION OF CAMPAIGN PARTICIPANTS IN THE MEDIA
The Copenhagen document requires to provide that no legal or administrative obstacle stands in the way of unimpeded access to the media on a non-discriminatory basis for all political groupings and individuals wishing to participate in the electoral process; (CD 7.8). The Code of Good Practice of the Venice Commission emphasises that equality of parties and candidates must be guaranteed, in relation to the election campaign and media coverage, and especially to the public media (VC I.2.3.a.i, ii), as well as access to privately owned media (I.2.3.c). In order for these standards to be met, it is necessary to undertake the following:
a. Improve the regulatory framework in order to prevent discrimination against campaign participants
It is necessary that the REM fulfils its legal obligation to regulate the obligations of all media service providers by a binding by-law, including those related to the representation of election participants without discrimination, and to adopt a new Rulebook on obligations of media service providers during the election campaign covering both public service media and commercial media service providers. (See article 141. of the Unified Electoral Law.)
b. Specify the obligation of media service providers to ensure representation in all types of programme content without discrimination during the election campaign
It is necessary that the REM specifies the legally prescribed obligation of media service providers to provide “non-discriminatory representation” to election participants with a new by-law. It is necessary to prescribe that this obligation applies to the entire MSP programme, and not only to the programme marked as the election one. Media service providers should be obliged to apply the principle of strict equality of participants in the election programme, while the adoption of a special set of rules should neutralise the advantage that representatives of the ruling parties receive during the election campaign, especially in the news programme.
c. Prevent favouring of government representatives by prescribing clear rules on the manner of media reporting on the activities of public officials
It is necessary to amend the Law on Electronic Media and prescribe that media service providers in all their programme content during the election campaign are obliged to respect the ban on programme favouring of officials or parties in power and determine clear criteria for determining the privileged position of election participants who are also public office holders. In this regard, it is necessary to stipulate that a privileged position will be considered to exist, if the media service provider reports during the campaign on the activities of officials that are not announcements of public authorities that are urgent and related to endangering life, health, safety or property; if the duration of the media content related to the activities of officials is of such a scope that it does not justify the exercise of the right of citizens to information in terms of the law governing public information; if the media service provider makes a live transmission or delayed broadcast of ceremonial events attended by the official and if the media service provider organises a show during the campaign in which the official who is a candidate or a prominent representative of a political entity participating in the election race promotes the results of the Government. Moreover, it is necessary to provide that information on regular activities of officials for which there is an editorial justification, within the news programme, will be done textually, without audio and video, in short reports (for example: no longer than two minutes).
d. Guarantee opposition political entities the right to express their views on topics discussed by the government officials
In order to achieve the necessary objectivity in reporting, it is necessary for the REM to specify in its by-law the statutory obligation of media service providers to provide free, truthful, objective, complete information during the election campaign including providing opportunities for opposition participants to present their standpoints within the news programme on topics of public interest on which the media service provider reported, presenting the views of government officials.
e. Prohibit live transmission or delayed broadcasting of integral pre-election rallies of political entities
The REM Rules of procedure should clearly prohibit live transmission or delayed broadcasting of election rallies of political entities participating in the elections, and instead prescribe the possibility for media service providers to broadcast an election feature from the election rally lasting two minutes at the most during the campaign.
f. Oblige public service media to adopt a Code of Conduct during the election campaign
In order to further affirm the standard of equal and impartial treatment of electoral participants, it is necessary for public media services to adopt codes of conduct that would regulate the implementation of the principle of equal representation in the media service provider programme, prohibition of programme favouritism or discrimination (negative campaigns) of individual political entities, minimum access to media service provider in connection with advertising during election campaigns. The main purpose of the Code would be to further strengthen the professionalism of media service provider in the direction of encouraging political pluralism. In addition, it is recommended that media service providers adopt codes that would be valid outside the election campaign and which would further define their obligations regarding the exercise of their programme functions in the field of encouraging political pluralism.