The suggestion, made by the panel tasked with reviewing Section 126 of Representation of the People Act that bans campaigning during 48 hours prior to conclusion of poll, takes a cue from guidelines issued by Press Council of India, National Broadcasters Association and some other media organisations to regulate election reporting. The committee, headed by senior deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha, has recommended that a ‘Code of Ethics for Media during Elections’ be drafted by the commission.
The code, according to the panel, may be enforced by a committee headed by a senior EC official and comprising representatives from media organisations, I&B ministry, MeitY, NBA, Internet and Mobile Association of India and PCI.
EC is expected to discuss the Umesh Sinha panel’s report on Tuesday. It is however not clear if the code of ethics for media will kick in ahead of Lok Sabha poll, were the commission to accept the recommendation. As per current practice, the EC, in its advisory on media coverage of polls, reiterates guidelines issued by Press Council of India and NBA in this regard. As per PCI guidelines, print media must report objectively, not pursue unhealthy or communal/casteist poll campaigns, refrain from personal attacks on candidates, shun financial inducements for favouring a particular party or candidate and not publish ads showcasing achievements of party in power.
Guidelines issued by National Broadcasting Standards Authority require electronic media to report objectively; disclose political affiliations, if any; avoid rumours ; resist political/financial pressures that may affect election coverage; maintain clear distinction between editorial and expert opinion; air reports based on facts, devoid of any communal references; and disclose pollster’s identity.