New Delhi: In the backdrop of controversy
over paid news, the Press Council of India has come out with
guidelines for the media like not partaking any hospitality or
inducements from political parties and candidates while
covering the forthcoming Assembly polls in four states.
The PCI said that in the event of staggered polls, no
newspaper shall publish exit-poll surveys till the last date
of the polls is over, however, genuine they may be.
Whenever newspapers publish pre-poll surveys, they
should take care to preface them conspicuously by identifying
the institutions which have commissioned the surveys, the size
and nature of sample selected the method of selection of the
sample for the findings and the possible margin of error in
It directed the press to observe all the orders and
instructions of the Election Commission or Returning Officer
or Chief Electoral Officer issued from time to time.
The press is not expected to indulge in canvassing for
a particular candidate or party. If it does, it shall allow
the right to reply to the other candidate or party, the
It asked the press not to accept any kind of
inducement, financial or otherwise to project a candidate or
party. "The press should refrain from publishing false or
critical statements with regard to the personal character and
conduct of any candidate or in relation to the candidature or
withdrawal of any candidate or candidature."
The guidelines further said that election campaign
along communal and caste lines is banned under the
Representation of the People Act, 1951. "The press should
eschew reports which tend to promote feelings of enmity or
hatred between people on the ground of region, religion, race,
caste community or language".
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, the guidelines
Realising the dangers of "paid news" to democracy as
well as the right to freedom of expression enshrined in
article 19 of the Constitution of India, the PCI in June,
2009, appointed a sub-committee comprising Paranjoy
Guhathakurta and Kalimekolam Sreenivas Reddy to examine the
phenomenon and subsequently came out with guidelines based on
a report by them.
West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam and Union
Territory of Puducherry are going to polls in April-May.