NDI Releases Pre-election Bulletin #2

On Tuesday, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) released the institute’s second pre-election bulletin, focused on the information environment in the country and the inclusion of marginalized groups. The data was collected between August 20 – October 20. The bulletin includes nine of the NGO’s recommendations to consider before the October 31 parliamentary elections. The institute is expected to publish the final assessment of the election process shortly after the elections.

“Social media is an increasingly important source of information in Georgia, which in turn means that exposure to online manipulation is growing,” NDI writes.

“Disinformation regarding covid-19 remains prevalent, while the recently resumed fighting in nearby Nagorno-Karabakh has sparked new disinformation narratives. From September 17 to October 15, two Georgia-based independent fact-checkers partnering with Facebook debunked 46 widely shared posts. Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian news sources have spread misleading or fake news stories about Georgia's actions and attitude toward the conflict, events in the ethnic minority areas, and the regional situation,” the institution notes.

“In a December 2019 NDI poll, 69% of respondents stated that they get the majority of their news from television, but only 32% agreed that Georgian TV presents unbiased coverage,” the NDI bulletin reads, after stating that although the country’s media environment is among the freest in the region, it is highly polarized and largely affects the citizens’ political conscience.

“At a time when it is especially important for citizens to receive regular and reliable information about elections and political developments, recent reports of interference with journalists’ work are troubling,” the institution writes in the document, referring to several incidents that have taken place in the country recently, like the protest that had Pankisi-based radio station shut down temporarily, violent clashes in Marneuli that left reporters and camera operators injured, and so on.

“Despite legal protections, women, ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities and LGBTI communities still struggle for political representation,” reads the document.

To improve the information environment and ensure the inclusion of the above-mentioned groups, NDI suggests nine recommendations:

o The Georgian National Communications Commission, in coordination with the CEC, should take additional steps to publicize rules and proactively ensure compliance among the media and political parties.
o To safeguard voters’ access to balanced and reliable information, political parties and candidates should participate in all available debates and political programs to present their policies and plans to the public.
o Media outlets and journalists should be allowed to perform their legitimate functions and exercise their rights, in keeping with journalistic ethics, without interference. Authorities should investigate alleged incidents in a timely manner and ensure that the perpetrators are adequately sanctioned.
o To increase transparency and avoid circumvention of the campaign finance rules, the electoral code should include provisions on the declaration of pages or social media used for campaign purposes. In order to increase their capacity to vet online advertising, state authorities should also establish communication with Facebook before elections.
o The government, political parties, civil society groups, journalists, and online platforms should continue and expand efforts to detect and mitigate disinformation in the elections and should implement long-term strategies to strengthen information integrity and community resilience.
o Political parties should put in place internal mechanisms to ensure women candidates are well supported throughout the remainder of the campaign.
o In the remaining days of the campaign, parties should make a deliberate effort to provide concrete details and steps regarding how they would address issues of importance to marginalized populations.
o Political parties and candidates should avoid topics that risk increasing division or tensions, including the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, and instead focus campaigns on program priorities and speak more directly to the needs of minority communities in Georgia.
o Political parties should sign on to the multi-party memorandum against the use of homophobic language in elections.

The full version of NDI’s second bulletin, which is based on an analysis of eight international election experts, can be viewed here

NDI notes it appreciates the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which make possible the Institute’s ongoing election analysis

By Nini Dakhundaridze

Image source: NDI.org


20 October 2020 23:48