With the ongoing assembly elections in five states, the Press Council of India (PCI) has advised the print media to follow the norms of journalistic conduct set by it and refrain from publishing paid news.
PCI has also asked the print media not to publish any news items or other contents in violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
“Elections in India are the backbone of our democracy and the responsibility on the media for bringing all related information to the public is heavy,” the PCI said in a statement issued on 18 January.
The assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, and Manipur between 10 February and 7 March and the counting of votes will be held on 10 March.
PCI issued a nine-point advisory for the print media
- It will be the duty of the press to give objective reports about the contesting 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.
- 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.
- The press should refrain front 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/her candidature, to prejudice the prospects of the candidate in the elections. The press shall not publish unverified allegations against any candidate/party.
- The Press shall not accept any kind of inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party. It shall not accept hospitality or other facility offered to them or on behalf of any candidate/party.
- The press is not expected to indulge in the canvassing of a particular candidate/party. If it does, it shall allow the right of reply to the other candidate/party.
- The press shall not accept or publish any advertisement regarding the achievements of a party/government in power.
- The press shall observe all the directions/orders/instructions of the Election Commission/Returning Officer or the Chief Electoral Officer issued from time to time.
- In the event of staggered polls, no newspaper shall publish exit-poll surveys, however, genuine they may be, till the last date of the polls is over.
- The print media is advised not to violate section 126 of the RP (Representation of the People) Act, 1951 and Norms of Journalistic Conduct-2020 on paid news.