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Refrain from publishing paid news: PCI to print media

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New Delhi, January 19: Ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls in five states, the Press Council of India (PCI) asked the print media on Wednesday to follow the norms of journalistic conduct set by it and refrain from publishing paid news.
It also asked the print media not to publish any news items or other contents in violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
The Assembly polls are scheduled to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur between February 10 and March 7 and the counting of votes will be taken up on March 10.
“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,” the PCI said in a statement.
“The Press Council of India advises media not to violate section 126 of the RP (Representation of the People) Act, 1951 and Norms of Journalistic Conduct-2020 on paid news,” it said in a nine-point advisory to the print media with regard to the coverage of the elections.
In its advisory, the PCI asked the print media to observe all the directions, orders and instructions of the Election Commission (EC), the returning officers and the chief electoral officer, issued from time to time.
“The print media is advised to take note of section 126 of the RP Act, 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,” the PCI said, taking note of the EC’s advisory issued to the media in this connection on January 14.
An “election matter”, as defined under section 126 of the RP Act, is any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election. A violation of the aforesaid provisions of the section 126 is punishable with imprisonment up to two years, or with fine or both.
“In the event of staggered polls, no newspaper shall publish exit-poll surveys, however genuine they may be, till the last date of the polls is over,” the PCI said.
It noted that it will be the duty of the press to publish “objective reports” about the contesting candidates.
“The newspapers are not expected to indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate or party or incident during the elections,” it said.
In practice, two or three candidates locked in keenly-watched contests attract all the media attention, the PCI noted.
“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,” it added.
Noting that election campaigning along communal or caste lines is banned under the rules, the council advised the print media to “eschew” reports that tend to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between people on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language.
It said 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 a candidate or his or her candidature, to prejudice the prospects of the candidate in the elections. (PTI)

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