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23.10.2021, . 11:38


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A. Postnicov. Mass Media Responsibilities at Election Time

Introduction

This reference paper covers the legal and various practical issues related to media participation in the election campaigns of individual candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs, particularly during the election of deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

New amendments to the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum» (hereafter - «On Basic Guarantees...»), and the new version of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation» (hereafter - «On Election of Deputies...») contain fairly detailed regulation of the mass media's participation in election campaigns. Compared to earlier legislative acts establishing, in particular, the procedure for the 1995 State Duma elections, the above-mentioned Federal Laws impose extensive new duties and restrictions on the media. Both chief executives of mass media and journalists covering election campaigns should observe the rules laid down in these laws. Those directly involved in the electoral process (candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs) are also bound by these rules.

Previously the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, when holding federal elections, issued instructions on the provision of air time by state-run TV and radio channels and on the publication of election campaign materials in newspapers and periodicals where the government held some interest. The election commissions of Subjects of the Russian Federation would issue similar instructions prior to regional or local elections. However, the new election legislation focuses on regulating election campaigns in the media by means of election laws.

Legal sanctions may apply in case any mass media violate the procedure for their participation in election campaigns. Such sanctions include administrative penalties prescribed by the RSFSR Code of Administrative Offences, that apply to media officials and journalists. The list of administrative offences with regard to media participation in election campaigns is currently being finalized, but certain offences may carry serious penalties.

Key Terms and Concepts

We use two categories of terms and concepts.

The first includes terms and concepts defined in the electoral legislation, primarily, in Article 2 of the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...».

The second comprises terms that, though not used in the election legislation, help the understanding of some technically complex structures of the election legislation. The concept of so-called 'regulated media' is a good example.

The 'regulated media' means TV and/or radio broadcasting companies, newspapers and periodicals having at least one of the following features:

    - the given entity or publication is founded (co-founded) by a government or municipal body, organization or institution;

    - one year before the election is called, at least 15 percent of the entity's or publication's own budget is financed with funds allocated by federal government authorities, government bodies of Subjects of the Russian Federation, or local self-government structures.

The Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...» treats all TV and/or radio broadcasting companies, newspapers and periodicals listed in Clause 1, Article 39 of the Federal Law as 'regulated media'.

Clauses 1 through 4, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» refers to various types of the so-called 'regulated media'. These include:

'Regulated government media', that is TV and/or radio companies, newspapers and periodicals, provided they are founded (co-founded) by government authorities, bodies, or institutions, and/or at least 15 percent of such broadcasting companies or publications is financed with funds allocated by federal government authorities, or government bodies of Subjects of the Russian Federation in the year starting one day before any notice calling the election is officially published. Such media are dealt with by Clause 1, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...».

Depending on the territorial reach of any 'regulated media', a distinction is drawn between 'regulated government media' of national and regional significance.

'Regulated government media' of national significance means 'regulated government media' comprising TV and radio broadcasting companies providing good reception coverage in one half or more of all Subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as any newspapers and periodicals sold in one half or more of all Subjects of the Russian Federation. Such media are dealt with by Clause 2, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...».

'Regulated government media' of regional significance means 'regulated government media' comprising TV and radio broadcasting companies providing good reception coverage in under one half of all Subjects of the Russian Federation, any divisions of nationwide 'regulated' government broadcasting companies, and any newspapers and periodicals sold in under one half of all Subjects of the Russian Federation. Such media are dealt with by Clause 3, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...».

Municipal 'regulated media' differ from the government 'regulated media' by the fact that they are founded (co-founded) by any bodies of local self-government or funded, in excess of the statutory threshold of 15 percent, with any funds allocated by local self-government bodies. Such media are dealt with by Clause 4, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...».

Federal list of candidates means a single list of persons nominated by any electoral association or electoral bloc for election to the State Duma, as certified by the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation with regards to collection of signatures or as registered by the Commission. Federal lists of candidates are drawn up to enable participation by electoral associations or electoral blocs in the proportional distribution of parliamentary seats during the Duma elections; they should be distinguished from any lists of candidates nominated by any electoral association or electoral bloc in single-seat constituencies.

Regional group of candidates means a formally defined portion of the federal list of candidates proposed by any electoral association or electoral bloc for election to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, which portion corresponds to one or more Subjects of the Russian Federation. The division of any federal list of candidates into regional groups is the responsibility of the respective electoral association or electoral bloc (Clause 8, Article 39 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

Election campaign means any activity by citizens of the Russian Federation, candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs and public associations intended to induce or inducing any voters to take part in the election and to vote for or against this or that candidate (list of candidates). Accordingly, such citizens of the Russian Federation, candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs and public associations are election campaigners.

Questions and Answers

1. Which legislative acts establish the additional duties of the mass media during elections?

During elections of various tiers (such as federal, regional, or local) the media are charged with a whole range of additional responsibilities, which represent a key condition of holding open, free and democratic elections.

1.1. The general duties of the mass media that apply to all elections held in the Russian Federation are laid down in the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum» dated September 19, 1997, as presently in effect with amendments and supplements introduced by Federal Law of March 30, 1999. The said Federal Law prevails over other electoral laws.

1.2. The mass media's duties with regard to the State Duma elections are detailed in the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation» dated June 25, 1999.

1.3. Specific duties of the mass media during elections in any Subject of the Russian Federation (such as elections of the chief executive of a Subject of the Russian Federation, deputies of legislative bodies, heads of municipalities, other elected officials of local self-governments, and deputies of representative bodies of local self-government) are established by laws of Subjects of the Russian Federation adopted in accordance with the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees ...».

2. Which mass media are charged with additional election-related duties?
How does the scope of such duties differ when applied to different media?

2.1. The mass media have a range of duties that equally apply to all the media in time of elections: in particular, the duty to prevent the misuse of press freedom, to comply with the prescribed timelines for election campaigning, to duly publish opinion poll findings, etc.

2.2. At the same time, the so-called 'regulated media' are charged with the heaviest burden of responsibility as regards election campaigning.

In particular, the 'regulated media' are obliged to treat any registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc equally as regards the terms and conditions of conducting an election campaign, to provide free air time or printing space, to publish election commissions' resolutions and any information on financial transactions performed via the special campaign fund accounts of the running candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs.

2.3. The scope of responsibilities shouldered by the regulated government or municipal media varies according to the tier of elections, as laid down in the laws governing the conduct of relevant elections. The following procedures have been established for election of deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly:

    - The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies ...» establishes that the regulated government media shall enable the candidates registered in single-seat constituencies as well as electoral associations and electoral blocs with registered federal lists of candidates to enjoy equal conditions for campaigning and communicating their policy platforms to the voters (Clause 1, Article 55 of the said Federal Law).

    - The regulated municipal media are obliged to provide equal campaigning opportunities to the registered candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs with registered federal lists of candidates. However, the said regulated media may refrain from carrying any campaign materials provided such media take no part whatsoever in any form of campaigning (Clause 4, Article 55 of the said Federal Law).

2.4. TV and radio companies, newspapers and periodicals other than regulated media may provide air time and print space to any registered candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs on contract for a fee. Provision of the said services is regulated by the relevant election laws (see Clauses 8.5 and 12.2 below).

3. How does the coverage area of the regulated media affect the extent of their duties to provide equal campaigning opportunities to all registered candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs?

3.1. This issue is covered by the laws governing the conduct of relevant elections.

3.2. As far as election of deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation is concerned, there are some specific requirements as regards campaigning via the regulated media, depending on the area securely covered by TV and radio companies or the selling area of any newspaper or periodical. Correspondingly, campaigning opportunities are differentiated by:

    - electoral associations and electoral blocs with registered federal lists of candidates;

    - regional groups of candidates;

    - candidates registered in single-seat constituencies.

The regulated national media are obliged to provide equal campaigning opportunities to electoral associations and electoral blocs with registered federal lists of candidates. The list of such media is released by the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation within 10 days of official release of the decision calling the elections (see Clause 2, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

The radio and TV companies and print media classified as regulated regional media are obliged to provide equal relevant campaigning opportunities to respective regional groups of candidates and candidates registered in single-seat constituencies. The list of such regulated regional media is released by the election commissions of Subjects of the Russian Federation within 10 days of official release of the decision calling the elections (Clause 3, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

4. How can the media participate in election campaigning?

The mass media are not independent election campaigners. However, anyone can conduct such a campaign through the media provided his right to do so is recognized by law.

It should be noted that election commissioners with a deciding vote, state authorities, bodies of local government, charity organizations, religious associations, persons holding state and municipal offices, government and municipal employees, as well as servicemen are barred from election campaigning while on duty or by taking advantage of their office or position (Clause 5, Article 37 of the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees ...»). Under Clause 8, Article 3 of the said Law, foreign nationals (with the exception of any cases when they enjoy electoral rights in municipal elections under an international treaty), stateless persons and foreign legal entities may not engage in any activity that assists or prevents nomination of any candidates (lists of candidates) or election of any registered candidates; therefore, they are excluded from participation in an election campaign. The media are obliged to make sure that such restrictions are duly observed.

5. What are the timelines for campaigning through the media?

5.1. Election campaigning through the media should fall within the timelines fixed for campaigns in support of relevant candidates or lists of candidates. Election campaigning starts on the day when a candidate (list of candidates) is registered, and ends at midnight, 24 hours prior to the voting day.

5.2. In case of a re-poll, the election campaign resumes on the day when the decision prescribing a re-poll is officially published and ends at midnight, 24 hours prior to the re-poll day.

5.3. The laws expressly prescribe the timelines for campaigning by registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs via the regulated media. As a rule, such campaigning starts after free air time and print space is apportioned among the candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs. Thus, under Article 56 (Clauses 3 and 14) of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», both free and paid air time is made available by any radio or TV company within the period that begins 30 days in advance of the voting day and ends one day before the voting day. In accordance with Article 57 (Clauses 3 and 11) of the said Federal Law, free and paid print space is made available by the relevant print media publishers for the period that starts 40 days in advance of the voting day and ends one day before the voting day.

6. What procedure is established for interaction between the mass media and election commissions?

The regulated media are obliged to carry the print information of election commissions, and to provide them with free air time in order to advise the voters about the timing and procedure of electoral actions, the progress of the on-going election campaign, and the candidates. Under Clause 7, Article 18 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», during the State Duma elections it is the 'regulated government media' that are charged with this duty. Any expenses these media incur in the process ought to be covered from their regular budgetary funds. Other media are required to provide the election commissions with necessary information and materials, and respond to their requests within the timelines prescribed by the law. In particular, the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 8, Article 18) establishes that the said duties of the mass media shall be carried out either within five days, or in the five-day runup to the elections and on election day itself.

Finally, any decisions and resolutions adopted by election commissions within the limits of their jurisdiction are binding on the mass media.

7. What procedures are established for provision of free air time by TV and radio broadcasting companies?

7.1. The TV and radio companies classified as 'regulated media' are required to provide free air time to registered candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs. In addition to that, the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» expressly prescribes the procedure for provision of free air time to regional groups of candidates.

During any campaign to elect deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the 'regulated' government TV and radio broadcasting companies are required to provide free air time.

Any expenses incurred by the radio and TV companies in the process of providing free air time for any registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs (as well as regional groups of candidates in the case of State Duma elections) are covered from the regular budgetary funding of the relevant broadcasting organizations.

7.2. Provision of free air time depends on the area covered by the respective radio and TV companies.

The Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...» established that, in case of elections of the President of the Russian Federation or State Duma deputies, free air time provided by each national radio or television network should total at least one hour daily on business days. In the same elections, respective regional broadcasting companies must allocate at least 30 minutes of free air time on business days, or at least one fourth of the total broadcasting time if that total is under two hours.

7.3. The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»(Clause 6, Article 55 and Clause 4, Article 56) expressly establishes that any candidates registered to run in single-seat constituencies (including those listed in the national section of any federal list of candidates) have no right to free air time on national radio and TV networks. However, any registered candidate nominated by an electoral association or electoral bloc to run in a single-seat constituency and listed in a regional group of candidates on the federal list of candidates from the same electoral association or electoral bloc is entitled to free air time on regional radio and TV either as a candidate registered to run in a single-seat constituency or as a candidate listed in any relevant regional group of candidates. The said regulatory procedures are intended to prevent any candidates both registered to run in single-seat constituencies and carried by the relevant federal lists of candidates from gaining an unfair advantage in obtaining free air time on radio and TV.

7.4. Under the law, radio and TV companies should provide free air time in prime time hours.

7.5. Any candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc may independently determine the form and nature of their media campaign, subject to certain exceptions established by law. Thus, the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...» establishes that at least one third of total free air time allowance shall be provided to candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs for holding joint discussions, round tables, or similar campaign events.

Under Clause 8, Article 56 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», the refusal of any registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc to participate in joint campaign events does not result in any increase of their free air time allowance.

As a point to be noted, the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» prescribes no restrictions on the extent of political advertising, as opposed to the instruction covering provision of free air time by government broadcasters to any electoral associations, electoral blocs or candidates running for the State Duma and publication of campaign materials in any newspapers and periodicals where the government has a participating interest, as approved by a regulation of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, whereby not more than 10 percent of free and paid air time allocated to any electoral association, electoral blocs or candidate may be used for political advertising.

7.6. As a rule, free air time is distributed by a draw of lots held by election commissions in the presence of the candidates, representatives of electoral associations or electoral blocs, and representatives of the respective media organizations. Following such drawing of lots, the dates and hours for campaign materials to be aired are finalized. In the State Duma elections, the lots are drawn by the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (with regard to electoral associations and electoral blocs) and by the election commissions of any Subjects of the Russian Federation (with regard to any registered candidates and regional groups of candidates) within a week once the registration of candidates and lists of candidates is completed. The air time is distributed among the candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs on an equitable basis, i.e. none of the above enjoys any advantage in gaining access to air time on better terms and conditions (as regards air time lengths, timing slots, etc.).

8. What is the procedure for provision of paid air time by TV and radio broadcasting companies?

8.1. The procedures for provision of paid air time by 'regulated' and other electronic media are somewhat different. The 'regulated media' broadcasting in to the election territory are required to reserve paid air time for campaigning by registered candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs. Total paid air time so reserved may not be less than the free air time total. Meanwhile, Clause 12, Article 56 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» establishes that total paid air time reserved may not exceed total free air time more than twice.

8.2. Paid air time is made available to any running candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs upon request. The relevant regulated broadcasting companies, on the one hand, and candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs, on the other, sign a contract for provision of paid air time. The rates may be determined separately for candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs. However, the rates shall be uniform across all candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs. Such rates must be fixed in advance and made public by the day when the nomination of candidates (lists of candidates) starts. In case of 'first-past-the-post' elections, when a map the of constituencies has to be approved, the nomination of candidates normally begins on the day the constituency maps are so approved. Otherwise, nomination of candidates starts once the elections are called. Under Clause 12, Article 56 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», the regulated government broadcasting companies are required to announce their paid air time rates and terms within 20 days of the official release of the decision to call the elections.

8.3. Any candidate has the right to buy an equal share of paid air time. The running candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs are free to decide how to use their paid air time slots.

8.4. The procedures for provision of paid air time by the regulated radio and TV companies are stipulated by the laws that govern the relevant elections. Normally, the dates and hours for paid air time slots are determined by a draw of lots held by the broadcaster in question. Thus, under Clause 14, Article 56 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», the dates and hours for airing campaign materials are fixed by a draw of lots held by the relevant radio or TV company in the presence of any interested parties, following written applications for a draw of lots filed by any registered candidates and/or authorized agents of any electoral associations and/or electoral blocs. Paid air time is provided as per a contract concluded following the draw of lots.

8.5. Unregulated radio and TV companies may be contracted to provide air time to any running candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs. It should be noted that these organizations are required to provide air time to all candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs on an equitable basis in terms of rates, timing slots and other significant features. Under Clause 16, Article 56 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», unregulated broadcasting companies may start airing campaign materials immediately upon the registration of any candidate or federal list of candidates in keeping with any contract between the company, on the one hand, and any registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc with registered federal lists of candidates, on the other.

8.6. In all cases, irrespective of the broadcasting company's profile, all air time payments must only be made through electoral funds of any running candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs; such payment must be fully disbursed before any air time is provided to them.

9. What requirements apply to contracts for provision of paid air time to registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs?
What is the procedure for its implementation?

9.1. Such contracts must be concluded in keeping with the Civil Code of the Russian Federation and with due regard for any stipulations prescribed by the law governing the election in question.

9.2. The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 18, Article 56) establishes that any contract for the provision of paid air time shall cover the following terms: type (form) of campaigning, dates and hours of airing, lengths of air time slots, rates and settlement procedures, and forms and conditions of participation of any radio or TV presenter in a campaign broadcast. Once the contract has been fulfilled, a performance report and a relevant air time utilization statement should be drawn up, confirming that the contractual obligations have been discharged and indicating the radio or TV channel used, the broadcast title and its airing hour. The Federal Law likewise establishes that, in case any registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc breaches any provisions of the said Federal Law when using their paid air time, the relevant radio or TV company may sue the offender and demand that the contract for provision of paid air time be terminated. Should the contract be so terminated, the company may not use the released air time for campaign purposes.

10. How is provision of air time and print space accounted for?
Who records campaign broadcasts?

10.1. Procedures to account for any air time and print space provided for campaign purposes and rules applicable to the taping of campaign broadcasts are established by the laws governing the relevant elections.

10.2. Under Clause 9, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», the radio and TV companies and print media publishers that provide free or paid air time and print space to any registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs are required to keep separate accounts of amounts and costs of such air time and print space in compliance with the forms approved by the Central Election Commission and to submit those accounts respectively to the Central Election Commission and election commissions of Subjects of the Russian Federation five days before the voting day and within five days following the election day. As requested by the aforementioned election commissions, they shall also be presented with any documents evidencing agreement on the part of any registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc to receive paid services and pay for such.

10.3. Under Clause 25, Article 56 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», any campaign broadcasts are aired subject to an audio or video recording to be kept by the relevant broadcasting company for 12 months following the airing of such broadcasts. Radio and TV companies are obliged to keep the accounts relating to provision of free and paid air time for five years following the election day.

11. How is provision of free print space by print media regulated?

11.1. The publishers of 'regulated' newspapers and periodicals circulated in any territory that holds the election are required to provide print space for publication of campaign materials submitted by candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs. In the event of electing deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs with registered federal lists of candidates are entitled to the provision of free print space in newspapers and periodicals that belong to 'regulated government media'.

The above obligation does not apply to any newspapers and periodicals established by government authorities and bodies of local government with the sole purpose of publishing official communications and materials, regulations, and other acts. Under the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», such publications may not carry either campaign materials or editorials covering the election campaign.

Specialized publications (for children, on technology, science, etc.) may also be exempted from the obligation to carry campaign materials for free, provided they take no part whatsoever in the election campaign.

11.2. The minimum amount of print space that a newspaper or periodical is required to provide for free is established by the law governing elections to the respective government authority or any body of local government. In the event of electing deputies of the State Duma, the total weekly free amount of print space to be provided by each newspaper or periodical that belongs to 'regulated government media' to respective registered candidates, regional groups of candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs shall equal at least 10 percent of the total weekly print space featured by the relevant publication during the established campaign period (see Paragraph 5.3 hereof). The publishers of the said publication are obliged to declare the total amount of free print space to be made available for campaign purposes within 20 days of the official release of the decision calling the elections.

11.3. Free print space is provided for candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs after such space has been distributed, normally by a draw of lots. All candidates, electoral associations, and electoral blocs participate in this distribution on an equitable basis. Under the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», the said drawing of lots is performed within one week once the registration of candidates and federal lists of candidates is completed (see Clause 3, Article 57).

11.4. If any campaign materials are published free of charge, the item so published should contain an express reference to the fact that it is carried free, plus an indication as to which candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc has been allowed to publish the material (Clause 29, Article 57 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

11.5. The expenses of any print media publishers relating to provision of free print space for campaigning purposes are covered by the relevant publishers' current budgetary funding (see Clause 8, Article 57 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

11.6. The candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs may independently decide how to use any free print space in newspapers and periodicals.

12. What procedure is established for provision of paid print space by print media?

12.1. The 'regulated' newspapers and periodicals are required to provide paid print space for publication of materials submitted by any registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs. The minimum amount of such space is established by the law governing elections to the respective government authority or any body of local government.

In the event of electing deputies of the State Duma, provision of reserved paid print space to any registered candidates, regional groups of candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs is a duty of newspapers and periodicals that belong to the regulated government media. The rates shall be uniform across all registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs; they shall be made public within 20 days of the release of the official decision calling the elections. Total paid print space reserved by any particular newspaper or periodical shall not be less than the total free print space made available for campaigning purposes; however, it shall not exceed the latter total more than twice. The dates for publication of campaign materials are determined by a draw of lots held by the editors in the presence of any parties concerned (see Clauses 9 and 11, Article 55 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

12.2. The non-regulated newspapers and periodicals may provide print space to candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs under a contract. Such publications must assure equal pay rates for the print space, as well as equal terms and conditions for providing such space (in terms of placement on a page and other key parameters) across all candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs. The law establishes only one exception: the requirement for providing print space on equal terms does not apply to any non-regulated print media in case their editorial office or the publication itself is founded by any registered candidate, electoral association, electoral bloc, or by electoral association(s) comprising an electoral bloc (see Clause 2, Article 41 of the Federal law «On Basic Guarantees...», and Clause 19, Article 57 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...»).

In all cases, regardless of the publication's nature, the print space must be paid for only via the campaign funds of respective candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs, and such payment must be made in full before the print space is provided to them.

Normally, such print space is distributed among the candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs in a draw of lots arranged by the respective media organization.

In accordance with the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 13, Article 57), non-regulated print media publishers may publish campaign materials immediately upon registration of any candidate or federal list of candidates, in keeping with a contract between the publisher, on the one hand, and the registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc with federal lists of candidates, on the other hand. Such contracts are concluded once a draw of lots is completed.

Any material so published in the print media and paid for from the campaign funds of any candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc should contain a reference to the candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc whose campaign funds have been used to pay for the publication. In case any campaign material is published free of charge, the publication should contain an indication that the material is published free, plus a reference to the registered candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc that has been allowed to place the material in question.

13. What requirements apply as regards the form and substance of mass media information circulated of election time?

The election legislation establishes a number of special requirements as regards the form and substance of any information printed or broadcast by the media at election time.

13.1. Neutrality. The Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...» establishes that news broadcasts should give no preference to any candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc, including any preference in terms of timing the coverage of their campaign activities, thereby effectively requiring that the electronic media remain neutral throughout the election campaign. As regards print media, Clause 17, Article 57 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» also stipulates that publication of campaign materials may not be accompanied by any editorial comments, headlines or illustrations that have not been agreed in advance with respective registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs.

The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 24, Article 56) stipulates that news broadcasts should carry any information on scheduled campaign events to be held by candidates, registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs as a separate segment, normally presented at the beginning of the program without comment. Candidates, registered candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs do not pay for these information segments.

The said Federal Law also establishes that the campaign material of any registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs must not be interrupted by any other programs, including commercials for goods or services; similarly, the regulated national broadcasting channels must not run any other broadcasts over transmission of campaign materials of electoral associations or electoral blocs (Clauses 22-23, Article 56).

13.2. Public opinion polls. The Russian electoral legislation establishes a set of special rules for the mass media to carry opinion poll findings, election result forecasts, and other election-related research in the course of elections. When publishing any election-related opinion poll findings, the media must identify the polling organization, the time of poll, the number of persons polled (sample size), the method of information gathering, the exact wording of the question, and the statistical error probability. No mass media may publish any opinion poll findings, election result forecasts or other election-related research data in the three days prior to the voting day or on the voting day.

The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 2, Article 54) likewise establishes that, once the registration of candidates and federal lists of candidates is over, any organizations involved in running election-related public polls in order to have those published in the media, and any organizations publishing election-related public poll findings and election forecasts, should accordingly copy those materials to the relevant district election commission or the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation.

13.3. Advertising of election campaigners' business and other activities, and relevant payment procedures. The Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...» stipulates that, in election time, any business or other activity pursued by any candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs, agents and authorized representatives of electoral associations or electoral blocs, candidates' agents, and any entities where such persons or organizations act as founders, proprietors and/or members of managing bodies may only be advertised in accordance with the procedures prescribed for election campaigns of registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs, while the respective expenses should be paid from the campaign funds they establish.

13.4. Protection of the candidates' honor, dignity and professional integrity. When participating in election campaigns, the 'regulated media' may not disclose any information capable of affecting the honor, dignity, or professional integrity of any running candidate, unless the media vehicle in question can enable the candidate to issue a rebuttal or any other clarification as may be necessary in order to protect his or her honor, dignity, or professional integrity before the time allocated for election campaigning expires.

13.5. Independence of candidates, electoral associations, and electoral blocs in choosing the form and nature of their media campaigns. This principle is laid down both in the Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees...» (Clause 4, Article 37) and the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 2, Article 52). The mass media are obliged to enable any registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs to independently determine the form and nature of their media campaigns.

14. Are the media obliged to publish any information on transactions involving campaign funds?

The election commission that has registered any candidate or list of candidates should, from time to time, provide the mass media with data on the receipt and expenditure of any campaign funds operated by registered candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs, in order that the data may be published. The 'regulated media' are obliged to publish such information within three days of receiving it, at the expense of their regular funding. The final financial reports by candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs are also forwarded to the media for publication.

The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clause 6, Article 66) establishes the scope of information on inflows and outflows of cash in campaign funds, which should be published in newspapers and periodicals that belong to the regulated government media. In particular, the obligatory publication rule applies to information regarding:

    a) any financial transaction involving the expenditure of campaign funds in excess of 2,000 times the minimal monthly wage (in the case of electoral associations or electoral blocs), or 500 times the minimal monthly wage (in the case of any candidate or registered candidate);

    b) any legal entities whose campaign contributions exceed 1,000 times the minimal monthly wage (in the case of electoral associations and electoral blocs), or 250 times the minimal monthly wage (in the case of any candidate or registered candidate);

    c) the total number of individuals contributing more than 50 times the minimal monthly wage;

    d) any funds returned to the donors, with an explanation of the grounds for such a refund;

    e) the sum total of campaign fund receipts and expenses.

15. What are the duties of media personnel participating in election campaigns?

All registered candidates holding mass media jobs shall be relieved of their official duties for the duration of their campaign. Within three days of their registration, they should submit to the relevant election commission a notarized copy of the appropriate order or directive temporarily relieving them of their official duties. In addition, in their own campaign they may not take any advantage of their office or position. In particular, taking advantage of any office or position is understood to include priority access to any 'regulated media' in order to collect signatures or conduct an election campaign.

Journalists, other creative workers and mass media managers, as well as executives and creative workers from the state-run broadcasting organizations are restricted from covering the election campaign in the media if they are candidates or agents of any candidates. Under Clause 6, Article 48 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...», this restriction is likewise applicable to the said persons if they act as agents or authorized representatives of electoral associations or electoral blocs.

Should any violations of the above rules occur, the relevant election commission may rescind its decision to register the candidate in question.

16. What is the procedure for reimbursing the 'regulated media' for any print space and air time provided free of charge?

16.1. The laws governing elections to specific federal or local government offices may require that any electoral association or electoral bloc securing vote totals below an established threshold reimburse the relevant 'regulated media' for any free print space and air time.

16.2. The Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» (Clauses 2 and 5, Article 67) establishes that any electoral association or electoral bloc that has registered a federal list of candidates yet secured under two percent of total votes cast in the relevant district, as well as any electoral association or electoral bloc that has recalled its federal list of candidates without compelling reasons, are obliged to fully reimburse the relevant 'regulated media' for the print space and air time provided free of charge.

The relevant electoral associations or electoral blocs shall pay the said reimbursements before the final financial report is submitted.

17. How are media campaign disputes reviewed?

Disptes related to election campaigning via mass media are reviewed by election commissions and courts of law.

However, some of these disputes are reviewed by the Judicial Chamber for Information Disputes under the President of the Russian Federation. The Chamber operates in accordance with Regulations approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated January 31, 1994.

The Judicial Chamber for Information Disputes may review information-related disputes and other cases either at the request or petition of any party concerned or on its own initiative. Individuals, mass media and election commissions may apply to the Judicial Chamber.

The Judicial Chamber and/or its members may ask government authorities and media editors to supply any materials necessary for the Judicial Chamber to perform its functions. Provision of such materials is mandatory. The Judicial Chamber for Information Disputes may require that any executive editors of mass media, other officials or journalists present written explanations as regards any unethical acts they commit.

Overall, the decisions of the Judicial Chamber are merely advisory; they do not have the legal force of a court judgment. However, any government authorities and their officials to whom any ruling of the Judicial Chamber is addressed must advise the Judicial Chamber of compliance with such a ruling within two weeks. The Judicial Chamber may apply to the respective authorities requesting them to issue a written warning to the founder and/or the editorial board (editor-in chief) under Article 16 of the Law of the Russian Federation «On Mass Media», and may petition a court of law to terminate any mass media whose founder and/or the editorial board (editor-in chief) have been given a written warning within the time established by the Law.

18. What liability is provided for the mass media for violating the election campaign rules?

Clause 2, Article 60 of the Federal Law «On Election of Deputies...» establishes that, in case any broadcasting company or the editorial board of any newspaper or periodical violates the campaign rules established by the said Federal Law, the relevant election commission may apply to any law enforcement authorities, a court of law, or executive authorities in charge of government policy towards the mass media, requesting them to put an end to any illegal campaign activities and to hold the broadcasting company, newspaper or periodical or their officials liable as prescribed by the legislation of the Russian Federation.

In particular, the RSFSR Code of Administrative Offences (CAO) establishes liability by way of fines for the following violations:

    - conduct of election-related campaign while the same is prohibited (Article 40-2);

    - dissemination of false information regarding any candidate running for deputy or other office, by way of publication or otherwise, in order to influence the election outcome (Article 40-3);

    - violation by any mass media or journalist of election campaigning conditions prescribed by the election legislation (Article 40-8);

    - printing and circulation of anonymous campaign materials in pre-election and election time (Article 40-9).

The State Duma is currently considering supplementing the RSFSR Code of Administrative Offences with new types of election-related administrative corpus delicti. In particular, it is proposed to establish administrative penalties for the following offences:

    - failure to observe an election commission decision;

    - violation, by a mass media organization, of the established procedure for publishing any documents related to preparation for and conduct of any elections;

    - violation of any restrictions on commercial advertising in election time;

    - campaigning by persons who are restricted from campaign participation by law;

    - failure to provide any registered candidate with a chance to publish a rebuttal or other clarification in order to defend his or her honor, dignity, or business reputation;

    - election campaign funding other than through the proper campaign funds, or other prohibited material support to the campaign of any candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc (including any performance of works, provision or services or sale of goods by legal entities at no cost or at unjustifiably low rates).

A. Postnikov,
Doctor of Law

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