New Delhi

Model code for media, Election commission to start consultations

Election commissioners Nasim Zaidi and Achal Kumar Joti, has decided in a meeting that the poll panel should "attempt" formulating a model code of conduct for the media. The Election Commission of India is keen on drafting a model code of conduct for the media to ensure that some norms are adhered to, during the coverage of elections. The election commissioner wants to formulate a model code in consultation with media houses, political parties and other stakeholders, similar to the one that exists for political parties and election candidates.

"At present, the Press Council of India and the National Broadcasting Association have some broad guidelines laid out for print and electronic media. Most media complaints that come to us during elections are usually forwarded to these bodies. Till date, there hasn't been any code from our side and this, if successful, will be a first," said an election commission official.

The official further added that, "The media has helped the EC tremendously in increasing voter awareness. Our intention isn't to have them on a leash. We are going to consult media houses and evolve a code of conduct only with consensus."

Professor Trilochan Sastry, co-founder of Association for Democratic Reforms, said, "It will be difficult for me to comment on the proposal to have a model code for media since I haven't seen it. But yes, there is a need for more responsible and unbiased coverage of elections. These days a lot of news channels are owned by politicians and this is not a healthy sign."

The election commission’s decision assumes significance against the backdrop of serious media violations reported during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. The commission was upset, when news channels aired the release of BJP manifesto across the country, even as the first phase of elections was going on in the North-eastern states.

The commission was also unhappy when channels had aired the footage of prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi flashing the BJP election symbol right after filing his nomination from Vadodara.

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