PCI asks print media to refrain from publishing paid news, violating RP Act during elections

PCI’s nine-point advisory

Image: Md Mahdi on Unsplash

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. The press shall not accept or publish any advertisement regarding the achievements of a party/government in power.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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