New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday barred exit polls related to Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat starting 8 a.m. on November 9 up to 6 p.m. on December 14.
Invoking its powers under Section 126A of the Representation of People Act 1951, the poll panel has barred conducting of any exit poll and “publishing or publicising by means of the print or electronic media or dissemination in any manner the result of any exit poll” in connection with the two state assembly elections between the notified period.
Voting in Himachal Pradesh is scheduled to be held in a single phase on November 9 while in Gujarat, voting will be held in two phases on December 9 and 14.
Noting that there are instances of violations of the rules by some television channels in the telecast of their panel discussions, debates and other news and current affairs programmes, the poll panel warned that violation of Section 126 is “punishable with imprisonment upto two years, or with fine or both”.
The ECI also drew the print media’s attention to the Press Council of India guidelines to be observed during elections, which urge the press to give objective reports about elections and the candidates and avoid reports which tend to promote feelings of enmity or hatred among people on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language.
The guidelines also ask reporters to not accept hospitality or other facilities offered by or on behalf of any candidate or party.
Drawing the electronic media’s attention to similar guidelines issued by News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), the ECI said that news channel shall not disclose any political affiliations, either towards a party or candidate.
“Unless they publicly endorse or support a particular party or candidate, news broadcasters have a duty to be balanced and impartial, especially in their election reporting,” one of the guidelines read.
The guidelines also ask news broadcasters to resist all political and financial pressures and to maintain a “clear distinction between editorial and expert opinion” carried on their news channels.
“News broadcasters are required to scrupulously maintain a distinction between news and paid content. All paid content should be clearly marked as ‘Paid Advertisement’ or ‘Paid Content’ and such content must be carried in compliance with norms,” the ECI said quoting guidelines.
“Special care must be taken to report opinion polls accurately and fairly, by disclosing to viewers as to who commissioned, conducted and paid for the conduct of the opinion polls and the broadcast. If a news broadcaster carries the results of an opinion poll or other election projection, it must also explain the context, and the scope and limits of such polls with their limitations.
“Broadcast of opinion polls should be accompanied by information to assist viewers to understand the poll’s significance, such as the methodology used, the sample size, the margin of error, the fieldwork dates, and data used. Broadcasters should also disclose how vote shares are converted to seat shares,” it further said.
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