2022 General Election: Statement by the Supervisor of Elections on Campaign and Media Blackout

Listen to this article:

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem at the press conference in Suva this afternoon – Sunday, December 11, 2022. Picture: SCREENGRAB/FEO footage

The Fijian Elections Office (FEO) has published a Notice in all newspapers yesterday Saturday, December 10, 2022 notifying the public about the commencement of the campaign and media blackout.

It is schedule to commence at midnight tonight which is 12am Monday, December 12, 2022 and will end at 6pm after polls have closed on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.

I would like to delve in detail on the different aspects of the restrictions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the campaign and media restrictions are derived from sections 63 and 118 of the Electoral Act 2014 (Act).

These are rules that have been outlined in the legislation and it is the role of the FEO to monitor and ensure that all stakeholders involved in the 2022 General Election as well as members of the public adhere to the restrictions outlined in the Act.

Before I go into details on the restrictions, I would like to read out the definition of Campaign as outlined section 2 of the Act.

“Campaign” means any act done for or in connection with promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a registered political party or the election of a candidate or candidates, or any act done for the purposes of influencing, directly or indirectly, the voting at an election, through any medium.

There are 4 different categories of restrictions:

  1. General Campaign Restrictions commencing from midnight tonight until 6pm on Wednesday, December 14, 2022:

(a) No one is allowed to engage in any campaigning, including any broadcast, advertisement or publication and distribution of any campaign material. So from midnight tonight all campaign activities which includes campaign rallies, campaign forums, electoral advertisements authorised by Political Parties and Candidates which are broadcasted on national radio and digital TV platforms must cease. Publication of Campaign posts on various social media platforms must also cease.

(b) No one is allowed to display slogans, banners, posters, flags or colours of a political party or a candidate in the election; If you have erected campaign material structures, displayed banners, put up posters of candidates or political parties in any vehicle or building in any place, they will need to be taken down before midnight tonight.

(c) No one is allowed to approach voters for the purposes of campaigning; Candidates and representatives or supporters of political parties as well as members of the public must not approach any voters for campaigning.

(d) No one is allowed to distribute in any manner (including through telephone, internet, email, social media or other electronic means) any campaign material or communicate political messages, including calls to vote for or against a particular political party or candidate in the election. All social media posts that are campaign posts must be removed and during the blackout period, there should not be any posts that are campaigning in nature to be put up. Parties and Candidates must deactivate their social media pages.

Just a point to note, only official websites of political parties can remain active for the purposes of displaying general information about the party for voters such as contact details, address of the party etc. However, political parties will not be allowed to post or update any information on the website once the blackout period commences tonight.

  1. Campaign Restrictions within the 300 metre radius of all polling station commencing from midnight tonight until 6pm on Wednesday, December 14, 2022:
  • No one is allowed to construct or erect any structure within the 300metre radius of the polling venue;
  • No one is allowed to organise any meeting, gathering or assembly of persons; Political Parties or candidates that are training agents must be aware of this and must not organise any meeting or even training within the 300metre radius of the polling venue.
  • No one is allowed to provide any enticement, incentive or inducement, including food and beverage to any person; Political Parties and Candidates or representatives and supporters must not provide incentives such as transport to voters, food and beverages or refreshments, or kava within the specified area.
  • No one must engage in any campaign; Any form of campaign activity is prohibited within the 300-metre radius of the polling station.
  • No one must distribute any material for the purposes of campaigning;
  • The use of public address or sound systems that could be heard in the polling station or polling venue or its surroundings is prohibited.
  1. Campaign Restrictions during polling commencing from 6.30am until 6pm on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 within 300 metres of any polling station:
  • No one is allowed to wear any emblem, clothing, badge, apparel or accessory of a political party or of a candidate in the election; All candidates, political representatives’ and supporters and voters must take heed of this. They must not wear tshirts, hats or any merchandise of political parties into the 300 metre radius of the polling station. Our Presiding Officers and the police officers stationed around the area will not hesitate to remove anyone or prevent anyone from entering the polling station if they are seen wearing any material or merchandise promoting a political party or candidate.
  • No one is allowed to display slogans, banners, posters, flags or colours of a political party or a candidate in the election within the 300 metre zone and within the stipulated time;
  • No one is allowed to approach voters for the purposes of campaigning;
  • No one is allowed to distribute printed campaign material or communicate political messages, including calls to vote for or against a particular political party or candidate in the election within the 300 metre zone and within the stipulated time;
  • No one is allowed to use public address or sound systems that could be heard in the polling station or polling venue or its surroundings.
  1. Media Restrictions commencing from midnight tonight until 6pm on Wednesday, December 14, 2022:
  • It is prohibited for any media organisation to publish, print or broadcast any campaign advertisement, debate, opinion or interview on any election issue or on any political party or candidate. From midnight tonight, all campaign advertisements playing on radio stations and digital TV owned by media organisatons must cease. Social media sites and official websites of media organisations must take down all campaign advertisements published including videos of interviews of candidates or political party leaders and debates.
  • Any publication or broadcast by any media organisation relating to the election that needs to be put up during the blackout period must obtain the prior approval of the Media Industry Development Authority.

Ladies and gentleman, those are the campaign and media restrictions during the Blackout period.  I would like to inform you all that any person who contravenes section 63 of the Act  commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or to both.

Also, for any media organisation that contravenes section 118 of the Act, the editor, publisher or owner of the media organization (as the case may be) commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.

The FEO will monitor the restrictions very closely and will not hesitate to refer any probable breaches to FICAC.

Also note that the SoE also has powers under section 116(4A) of the Act to remove or direct any political party, candidate or police officer to remove any material that is in breach of the campaign rules. I will not hesitate to exercise my powers as stated in this provision.

For noting by CSO’S

Kindly note that your application under s115 was approved for the purpose of providing voter education and awareness to the general public.

Campaign is defined under the Electoral Act 2014 as ” any act done for or in connection with promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a registered political party or the election of a candidate or candidates, or any act done for the purposes of influencing, directly or indirectly, the voting at an election, through any medium”.

In light of this, the 48 hours blackout period does not affect the approval granted to you under s115 application.

However, if the FEO is made aware that your supporting materials falls under the ambit of campaign definition mentioned herein, we will notify you to remove your materials so that you adhere to the existing electoral laws of our country.

Hope this clarifies any doubt with regards to the 48hours blackout period. For any further clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Vinaka

 

 

Array
(
    [post_type] => post
    [post_status] => publish
    [orderby] => date
    [order] => DESC
    [update_post_term_cache] => 
    [update_post_meta_cache] => 
    [cache_results] => 
    [category__in] => 1
    [posts_per_page] => 4
    [offset] => 0
    [no_found_rows] => 1
    [date_query] => Array
        (
            [0] => Array
                (
                    [after] => Array
                        (
                            [year] => 2024
                            [month] => 01
                            [day] => 16
                        )

                    [inclusive] => 1
                )

        )

)