Election Commission issues detailed media guidelines for Bihar assembly polls

NEW DELHI: Even as the Model Code has come into effect for the elections to the Bihar assembly, the Election Commission today prohibited conduct of Exit poll and dissemination of their results during the period mentioned therein, that is, from 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.


The directive was issued under Section 126A of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951. The polls commence from 12 October and will continue till 8 November, in five phases.


The Commission reiterated that the TV, radio channels and cable networks should ensure that the contents of the programme telecast by them during the period of 48 hours referred to in Section 126 of the Act 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. This among other things includes display of results of any opinion poll and of standard debates, analysis, visuals and sound-bytes.


At the outset, the Commission said there are sometimes allegations of violation of the provisions of Section 126 by TV channels in the telecast of their panel discussions/debates and other news and current affairs programmes. The Commission said it has clarified in the past that Section 126 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.


“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 up to a period of two years, or with fine or both.


During the period not covered by Section 126 or Section 126A, concerned TV, radio, cable and FM channels are free to approach the state, district or 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.


They are also required to stay within the provisions of Commission’s guidelines dated 27 August 2012 regarding paid news and related matters. Concerned chief electoral officer or district election officer will take into account all relevant aspects including the law and order situation while extending such permission.


Apart from issuing separate guidelines for the print media, the Commission also drew attention of the media to the guidelines issued by the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority with regard to elections.

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