Press Council of India’s Guidelines on Election Reporting- 1996
i) General Election is a very important
feature of our democracy and it is imperative that the media transmits
to the electorate fair and objective reports of the election campaign
by the contesting parties. Freedom of the Press depends to a large
measure on the Press itself behaving with a sense of responsibility. It
is, therefore, necessary to ensure that the media adheres to this
principle of fair and objective reporting of the election campaign.
The Press Council has, therefore, formulated the following guidelines to the media for observance during elections:
1. It will be the duty of the Press to give objective
reports about elections and the candidates. 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.
2. Election campaign along communal or caste lines is banned
under the election rules. Hence, the Press should eschew reports which
tend to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between people on the
ground of religion, race, caste, community or language.
3. The Press should refrain from publishing false or
critical statements in regard to the personal character and conduct of
any candidate or in relation to the candidature or withdrawal of any
candidate or his candidature, to prejudice the prospects of that
candidate in the elections. The Press shall not publish unverified
allegations against any candidate/party.
4. The Press shall not accept any kind of inducement,
financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party. It shall not
accept hospitality or other facilities offered to them by or on behalf
of any candidate/party.
5.The Press is not expected to indulge in canvassing of a
particular candidate/party. If it does, it shall allow the right of
reply to the other candidate/party.
6. The Press shall not accept/publish any advertisement at
the cost of public exchequer regarding achievements of a party/
government in power.
7. The Press shall observe all the
directions/orders/instructions of the Election Commission/Returning
Officers or Chief Electoral Officer issued from time to time.
ii) Guidelines on Pre-poll and Exit-poll Survey- 1996
The Press Council of India having considered the question of
desirability or otherwise of publication of findings of pre-poll
surveys and the purpose served by them, is of the view that the
newspapers should not allow their forum to be used for distortions and
manipulations of the elections and should not allow themselves to be
exploited by the interested parties.
The Press Council, therefore, advises that in view of the crucial
position occupied by the electoral process in a representative
democracy like ours, the newspapers should be on guard against their
precious forum being used for distortions and manipulations of the
elections. This has become necessary to emphasize today since the print
media is sought to be increasingly exploited by the interested
individuals and groups to misguide and mislead the unwary voters by
subtle and not so subtle propaganda on casteist, religious and ethnic
basis as well as by the use of sophisticated means like the alleged
pre-poll surveys. While the communal and seditious propaganda is not
difficult to detect in many cases, the interested use of the pre-poll
survey, sometimes deliberately planted, is not so easy to uncover. The
Press Council, therefore, suggests that whenever the newspapers publish
pre-poll surveys, they should take care to preface them conspicuously
by indicating the institutions which have carried such surveys, the
individuals and organisations 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 the
2. Further in the event of staggered poll dates, the media
is seen to carry exit-poll surveys of the polls already held. This is
likely to influence the voters where the polling is yet to commence.
With a view to ensure that the electoral process is kept pure and the
voters' minds are not influenced by any external factors, it is
necessary that the media does not publish the exit-poll surveys till
the last poll is held.
3. The Press Council, therefore, requests the Press to abide
by the following guideline in respect of the exit polls: Guideline: No
newspaper shall publish exit-poll surveys, however, genuine they may
be, till the last of the polls is over.