Provision of EC doesn't comply with the Constitution

The Provision Prohibiting the Accreditation of More than 50 Media Representatives by One Media Outlet Found Unconstitutional by the RA Constitutional Court               

Today the RA Constitutional Court adopted a decision on the application submitted by the NGO ‘Journalists’ Club ‘Asparez’’ recognising the wording of Article 31, Paragraph 8, Subparagraph 2 reading ‘one media outlet and no more than 50 representatives of this media outlet’ contrary to the requirements of Article 42, Article 51(2), Articles 75, 78, 79, 80, Article 81(2) of the RA Constitutional and, therefore, invalid.

The second sentence of subparagraph 2 of paragraph 8 of Article 31 of the RA Electoral Code limits the right to accreditation of more than one media outlet disseminated on behalf of one legal personand of more than 50 representatives of this media outlet. On 9 March 2017, the ‘Journalists’ Club ‘Asparez’’ applied to the Central Electoral Commission with a motion for accreditation of 2 media outlets – Asparez Daily and – and 1000 representatives thereof. Relying on the aforementioned articles of the RA Electoral Code, the CEC dismissed the motion. The NGO appealed the CEC decision to the Administrative Court, which rejected the complaint. Following this the organisation applied to the Constitutional Court challenging the relevant provision of EC Article 31 in the light of Articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 29, 42, 78, 80 and 81 of the RA Constitution.

Tigran Yegoryan, Lousineh Hakobyan and Vahe Grigoryan, the applicant’s representatives indicated in the application submitted to the Constitutional Court that the above interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression does not pursue a legitimate aim, nor was it in any way necessary in a democratic society. Stressing the importance of ‘the public watchdog function’ of the media and its representatives, they indicated that it is the mission of the media to act as additional safeguards for the transparency, impartiality and legality of the electoral processand that by acting as the ‘eye and ear of the public’ the media contribute to the formation of certain attitudes – trust or mistrust – towards electoral processes, the results of elections and the future authorities. Therefore, such restrictions are groundless and unjustified.

As regards the question of the reasonableness of the restriction in terms of ensuring the regular voting process and prevention of overcrowding in the voting room, according to the applicant’s representatives, this restriction was not proportionate given the fact that the same Electoral Code allows the presence of one journalist and one photographer in the voting room, while the members of electoral commission have a right to limit the number of electoral actors present in the voting room to prevent overcrowding.

The decision will be analysed in more detail once its compete text is made available to the public. 

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