#07 CLEARLY DEFINE REM’S OBLIGATIONS DURING THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Voters must have the freedom to form an opinion, and public authorities must respect the obligation of neutrality in relation to the media (VC I.3.1.a.i). Administrative bodies must be obliged to implement legal sanctions for violations of the obligation of neutrality and freedom of voters to form an opinion. (I.3.1.c) The Code provides for an effective system of appeals in the electoral process (I.3.3), in which there must be the possibility of a final appeal to the court (I.3.3.a). In order for these standards to be met, it is necessary to undertake the following:
a. Establish the exclusive competence of the REM in the process of monitoring the electronic media during the election campaign
In order to avoid the negative effects of the parallel competence of the Oversight Committee and the REM in the process of overseeing of electronic media during the election campaign, it is necessary to amend the Law on the Election of Members of the Parliament and exclude the oversight of electronic media from the competence of the Oversight Committee. At the same time, it is necessary to amend the Law on Electronic Media and explicitly oblige the REM to perform the oversight of the programme content of media service providers within its competence, which it conducts ex officio following a pre-published monitoring plan, and to publish written reports on the monitoring and analysis of electronic media during the election campaign periodically (for instance, once a fortnight) and to publish the final Report on the oversight of electronic media during the election campaign no later than one month from the announcement of the final election results.
b. Oblige the REM to adopt a monitoring plan and specify the mandatory elements of the MSP oversight report during the campaign
It is necessary to amend the Law on Electronic Media in order to oblige he REM to adopt a MSP monitoring plan before each election campaign, which will designate the media service providers and the types of programme contents to oversee, as well as the methodology according to which the data will be collected and systemised. The oversight must be carried out on public media services, all commercial media service providers with national frequencies, and on an appropriate sample of MSP with local and regional coverage. In addition, it is necessary to prescribe that reporting is done on the basis of conducted qualitative and quantitative analysis of programme content and reports must contain the findings of the REM expert service regarding equal representation of candidates, i.e. electoral lists in the media, media reporting on candidate activities, records of public election appearances, actors in the role of public officials and candidates, the context in which a particular election participant is mentioned, as well as other important aspects of the work of the media that may have an impact on objective and comprehensive information of citizens about candidates and their election programmes.
c. Ensure transparency of collected data
In order for the public to have access to all data collected by REM through monitoring, it is necessary to oblige the REM by the Law on Electronic Media to publish the data collected by monitoring in the form of an open database on its website on a daily basis.
d. Enable judicial review of all REM decisions made upon complaints
It is necessary to amend the Law on Electronic Media and prescribe the obligation of the REM to initiate proceedings and make a reasoned decision on each complaint submitted during the election campaign, including those alleging a violation of the general interest, which may be subject to judicial review.
e. Include the report of the expert service for oversight and analysis in the reasoning of the decision
It is necessary to introduce the obligation to include the report of the expert service for oversight and analysis in the reasoning of the decision on complaints, so that complainants can be aware of the facts and circumstances that were decisive for making a particular decision.
f. Provide short deadlines for the REM to decide on citizens’ complaints
In order for the control of the election campaign to be efficient, it is necessary to amend the Law on Electronic Media and oblige the REM to make a decision in the procedure on complaints of natural or legal persons during the campaign within 96 hours of receiving the complaint.
g. Expand the range of penalties imposed by the REM to broadcasters who do not follow the rules during the campaign
In order for the REM to impose sanctions on media service providers to have a greater effect on media service providers who violate the law, it is necessary to enable the REM to impose fines in a fixed amount, in addition to the measures currently available.