The Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Press Council of India (PCI) had issued certain guidelines to regulate the media coverage with regard to elections and exit polls, etc in order to ensure fair elections. It is also necessary for the media to adhere to the principle of fair and objective reporting of the election campaign and the candidates.
The ECI has recently notified on 07.04.2019 (Sunday), the period between 7.00 A.M on 11.04.2019 (Thursday) and 6:30 PM on 19.05.2019 (Sunday) (Prohibited Period) as the period during which the conduct of exit poll, publication or publicity of the result of any exit poll in print or electronic media or in any other manner, in connection with General Elections to Lok Sabha and other Legislative Assemblies, has been prohibited. Further, any kind of predictions of results of election, etc by astrologers, tarot readers, political analysts or by any other persons and telecast or publication of any such predictions during the Prohibited Period has also been forbidden in order to ensure free, fair and transparent election.
Further, the PCI also requires that the Press should endeavour to inform the public in an objective manner, about appropriate electoral matters, political parties, candidates, voting processes, etc, but not indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate/party or incident during the elections and other such activities as listed below:
- That the Press should avoid reports which tend to promote communal or caste related feelings, amongst public.
- The Press should refrain from publishing false or critical statements about any party or candidate and also not accept any kind of financial or other offers to promote a candidate or party.
- The Press should not publish any advertisement about the achievements of a candidate or party at the cost of public exchequer.
- The Press should follow the ECI Guidelines regulating media coverage during Prohibited Period and otherwise.
- The print or electronic media should not be used as a forum for distortions and manipulations of the elections.
- The news channels should disclose any political affiliations, either towards a party or candidate.
It is believed that the Press should behave with a sense of responsibility while reporting news related to elections, so that it enables the citizens to exercise their vote based on a well-informed choice.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer