The Press Council of India (PCI) has issued an advisory for the print media players ahead of the upcoming Legislative Assemblies Elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa. It enlists several dos and don’ts for the players including not violating the Representation of People Act and not indulging in the ‘canvassing of a particular party/candidate’, without giving the right of reply to the opposing party.
The advisory said, “The Print Media is advised to take note of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951 that prohibits publishing any election matter by means, inter alia, of newspaper or any apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.”
An “election matter”, is defined under section 126 of the RPA as any event or issue intended or calculated to influence or affect the results of an election. Failure to do so may result in imprisonment up to two years, a fine, or both.
Meanwhile, through the advisory PCI said “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.” It then goes on to ask media to “eschew” any reports that promote “feelings of enmity or hatred between people on the ground of caste, religion, race, community, or language.”
The Council said that no member of the press should accept any kind of “inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party.”
The advisory further stated that the press should not accept or publish any advertisement at the “cost of the public exchequer regarding achievements of a party/government in power.”
“It will be the duty of the press to give objective reports about the contesting candidates.”
It added that “the Press should refrain from publishing false or critical statements in regard to the personal character and conduct of any candidate.” And further said, “The Press shall not publish unverified allegations against any candidate/party.”
PCI also states that in the event of staggered polls, no newspapers should publish exit-poll surveys till the last date of voting is over.