New Delhi: The Election Commission on Thursday tightened poll code norms for electronic and print media.
It has disallowed poll outcome forecasts by political analysts, astrologers, tarot card readers.
The EC in a letter to News Broadcasters Association and Press Council of India has said that such programmes were attempts to “merely score brownie points against the competitors for merely commercial reasons”.
According to the existing rules under the Representation of People’s Act (RPA), results of exit polls cannot be released during the course of the campaign.
“It has been observed that some of the TV channels telecast certain programmes projecting the numbers of seat likely to be won by political parties. This was done during the period during which exit polls and dissemination of their results were prohibited,” EC said in its letter.
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The EC added that this will ensure “free, fair and transparent election”. News Broadcasters Association and television news channels are yet to receive the letter.
Media experts, however, said, it is unclear if this will be mandatory since the letter is more of an advisory. “The statement put out says ‘advised to refrain’ so its not clear whether this will be mandatory. But if political analysts on TV are prevented from speculating about the likely outcome of elections that is definitely a restriction on free speech. As for voters being influenced by astrological predictions, many elections have been conducted without any evidence that astrologers have been able to sway outcomes,” said media critic Sevanti Ninan, who is the editor of media watch website thehoot.org.
Prabhu Chawla, editorial director at The New Indian Express agreed. “EC can ban exit or opinion polls by agencies but it can’t prevent analysts or professional journalists from writing stories based on ground realities. This is unacceptable. Ban political leaders from predicting victories during the campaign if you can,” he said.