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MOSCOW, September 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has clarified the situation over the removal of representatives of the Golos Association from a number of polling stations at regional elections on Sunday.
“Under the Russian laws, public organizations are allowed to be present at polling stations at local elections if it is permitted by regional laws,” a spokesman for the CEC’s legal department told ITAR-TASS. “At other elections, only observers from political parties or observers from candidates are allowed to monitor the polling.”
“What is Golos doing? They commission members of their association as observers to polling stations, which runs counter to the law,” the spokesman said. “When a Golos member enters a polling station, he or she presents a paper saying he or she is a journalist from the Grazhdansky Golos newspaper.”
“Journalists can carry out their professional activities at polling stations. As for Golos, they present information as observers, they give assessments, they speak about violations, they comment forecasts, which is violation of laws and abuse of duties,” the spokesman said. “So, it means that the Grazhdansky Golos staff of journalists number several thousands.”
At the same time, the CEC pledged that measures would be taken if any real episodes of impeding journalist activities were reported.
Earlier on Sunday, the Golos Association said that its observers had been removed from polling station in the Chelyabinsk, Moscow and Samara regions, and in the republic of Bashkortostan at the recommendation from the Central Election Commission, since the Golos Association had been recognized as a “foreign agent.”
“The removal of our observers from polling stations is absolutely illegal,” said a Golos representative, Grigory Melkonyants.
“There are no references to laws in resolutions of election commissions. And there can be no such references: even if one of the founders of our newspaper is a “foreign agent,” the law has no restrictions in terms of election monitoring.” He added that the association planned to file libel motions against chairmen of a number of election commissions, including Irek Vildanov, the chairman of the Moscow region election commission.