Some Guidlines to Media by Election Commission of India - Seeker's Thoughts

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Some Guidlines to Media by Election Commission of India

Polls can be controversial if the agency conducting them is perceived to be biased. Critics say the projections of these surveys can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions, and by the nature of the sample drawn. 

Political parties often allege that many opinion and exit polls are motivated and sponsored by their rivals, and could have distorting effect on the choices voters make in protracted election, rather than simply reflecting public sentiment or views.

The election commission of India has issues guidelines to media on various issue related to elections like exit polls, publication of results.

Guidelines of election commission
1-      Section 126A of the Representation of People Act 1951 prohibits the conduct of exit poll and dissemination of its result the hour fixed for the commencement of poll in the first phase and half an hour after the time fixed for the close of poll for the last phase in all the states. ];The advisory by the election commission states that exit polls can only be telecast after the final of polling for the Lok Sabha elections ends on May 19.

2-     The advisory on exit polls is also applicable for assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim.
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3-     The ECI has asked the TV, radio channels, cable networks, websites and social media platforms to ensure that the contents of programmes telecast during the 48-hour period the end of polls in each phase do not contain any material, including views or appeal by participants that may be construed as promoting or prejudicing the protest of any particular party or candidate as per the section 126 of representation people Act 1951.

4-     The advisory warns that any violation by broadcasters will be reported to the News Broadcasting Standard Authority (NBSA) by the Election Commission and will be dealt with by the NBSA under its regulations.

5-     The news broadcasters are advised not to air any final or definite results until they are formally announced by the Election Commission. Further such results should be carried with a disclaimer that they are “unofficial or incomplete or partial results or projections which should not be taken s final results.

6-     The Election Commission has asked the political parties to not criticize other countries, or make any verbal attack on any community or religion, use defamatory or obscene remarks or incite violence during the broadcast time allocated in public broadcasting agencies.

“Voluntary Code Ethics” By Internet and Mobile Association of India

Internet and mobile association of India has developed a voluntary code of ethics for the entire participating social media platform to ensure free, fair & ethical usage of their platforms to maintain integrity of electoral process during the general elections to the Lok Sabha 2019 and Legislative Assembly of four states and the bye-elections being held simultaneously. Attention of all concerned social media platforms is invited to the following text of voluntary code of ethics on 20th march 2019.

Media’s role in election

The media plays essential role in democratic election. A free and fair election is not only about casting a vote in proper conditions, but also about having adequate information about parties, policies, candidates and the election process itself so that voters can make an informed choice.

Political parties use media because traditional mass media communication medium are highly regulated by election commission of India.

For over a decade politicians have taken the web in an attempt to better reach voters in new media society. At first it was the use of static webpage to promote campaign goals, promises and information. However, as social media or the social networking sires began rise in popularity in the mid- 2000, campaign began in earnest attempting to harness their power to reach more voters.
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Candidates and parties have an explicit right to provide the electorate information regarding their attributes, political agendas, and proposed plans. Besides meeting directly with member of the electorate, candidate and parties accomplish this task though campaign via media. It is a paramount to democratic electoral processes therefore, that all candidate and patties are provided equal access to media for this Endeavour.

How do other countries deal with pre-election and exit polls?

Sixteen European Union countries ban reporting of opinion polls, with ban timeframes ranging from a full month to just 24 hours before polling day. Only Italy, Slovakia and Luxembourg have ban of more than 7 days. A 7- day blackout imposed by France in 1977 was overturned by a court order that deemed it to be violative of the freedom of expression. The French ban has been reduced to 24 hours ahead of voting day.
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In the UK, there is not restriction on publishing or telecasting the results of election- however results of exit polls can’t be published until the voting is over.

In The United States, media coverage of opinion polls is regarded as an integral part of free speech in elections, and publication is allowed at any time. The only restriction  exists not reporting likely outcomes from exit polls before voting is over on election day- is one that news organizations commissions the polls voluntarily impose upon themselves.

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