Election Commission mandates poll-related behaviour of media before state polls

NEW DELHI: With elections to five states on the anvil, the Election Commission has prohibited conduct of Exit polls and dissemination of their results in the hour fixed for commencement of polls in the first phase and half hour after the time fixed for close of poll for the last phase in all the States, as also stated in Section 126A of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951.


The Commission has clarified that there have been violations in the past of Section 126 of the Act which prohibits displaying any election matter by means of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency. There are allegations sometimes during elections of violation of the provisions of the above Section 126 by TV channels in the telecast of their panel discussions/debates and other news and current affairs programmes.


“Election matter” has been defined in that Section as any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election. Violation of the aforesaid provisions of Section 126 is punishable with imprisonment upto a period of two years, or with fine or both.


Elections in November and December are being held for Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Delhi.


A mechanism has been laid out with three-tier Media certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC) at District, State and Election Commission level to deal with the menace of paid news, it said. Revised comprehensive instruction on ‘Paid News’ has been issued on 27 August 2012 and is available on the Commission’s Website. Necessary instructions have been issued to the CEOs of the poll going states to ensure briefing of political parties and Media in the districts about ‘Paid News’ and the mechanism to check ‘Paid News’. Representatives of Political Parties and Media Organizations of poll going states have also been briefed at Election Commission. The MCMCs of all states have been trained to do their job.


The Commission has reiterated that the TV/Radio channels and cable networks should ensure that the contents of the programme telecast/broadcast/displayed by them during the period of 48 hours referred to in Section 126 do not contain any material, including views/appeals by panelists/participants that may be construed as promoting/prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate(s) or influencing/affecting the result of the election.


During the period not covered by Section 126 or Section 126A, concerned TV/Radio/Cable/FM channels are free to approach the state/district/local authorities for necessary permission for conducting any broadcast related events which must also conform to the provisions of the model code of conduct and the programme code laid down by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 with regard to decency, maintenance of communal harmony, etc.


The Commission said they are also required to stay within the provisions of Commission’s guidelines dated 27th August, 2012 regarding paid news and related matters. Concerned Chief Electoral Officer/District Election Officer will take into account all relevant aspects including the law and order situation while extending such permission.


It drew attention of the media to guidelines issued by Press Council of India to follow for observance during the election:


(i) It will be the duty of the Press to give objective reports about elections and the candidates. The newspapers are not expected to indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate/party or incident during the elections. In practice, two or three closely contesting candidates attract all the media attention. While reporting on the actual campaign, a newspaper may not leave out any important point raised by a candidate and make an attack on his or her opponent.


(ii) Election campaign along communal or caste lines is banned under the election rules. Hence, the Press should eschew reports, which tend to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between people on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language.


(iii) The Press should refrain from publishing false or critical statements in regard to the personal character and conduct of any candidate or in relation to the candidature or withdrawal of any candidate or his candidature, to prejudice the prospects of that candidate in the elections. The Press shall not publish unverified allegations against any candidate/party.


(iv) The Press shall not accept any kind of inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party. It shall not accept hospitality or other facilities offered to them by or on behalf of any candidate/party.


(v) The Press is not expected to indulge in canvassing of a particular candidate/party. If it does, it shall allow the right of reply to the other candidate/party.


(vi) The Press shall not accept/publish any advertisement at the cost of public exchequer regarding achievements of a party/government in power.

(vii) The Press shall observe all the directions/orders/instructions of the Election Commission/Returning Officers or Chief Electoral Officer issued from time to time.

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