BRC announces guidelines

National

THE Bougainville Referendum Commission has announced guidelines for a positive, peaceful and credible referendum.
Commission chairman Bertie Ahern said the guidelines – BRC issuance on canvassing, broadcasting, publications, advertising – encouraged a respectful and informed discussion of the two options of freedom of speech and the encouragement of social cohesion.
“The Organic Law is actually silent on the issue of campaigning, but the commission is mindful of the negative connotation of the term ‘campaigning’ in Bougainville,” Ahern said.
“Instead, the commission uses the term ‘canvassing’ and provides guidance for other forms of media and communication,” he said.
“Together, we must balance the need to deliver a credible referendum where all voters are aware of the two options before them, as well as supporting the ongoing peace process.”
The issuance notes that there is no formal campaign period, but requests a period of silence 72 hours ahead of polling (midnight Nov 20) to provide for peaceful reflection, in line with international good practice.
“There are two common misunderstandings about referendum and campaigning,” Ahern said. “One is that the issue of the Writ on Sept 27 marks the start of campaigning. That is not true. The law does not provide a formal start or end of campaigning.
“This means that anyone or any group, can canvass for either option between now and the count.
“Through the issuance, the BRC encourages discussion of both options in a respectful, peaceful way, so that despite people’s preferred choice, all are aware of what each option means.
“The second misunderstanding is that only formally recognised interest groups can be involved in campaigning. This is also not true, anyone can canvass for either option.”
Ahern said the Organic Law, BRC was mandated to promote informed debate on each side of the question to be put at the referendum and to encourage wider public interest.

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