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New media guidelines set by the EC include disclosure of Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts as well as campaigning expenditure incurred through the Internet.
New media guidelines set by the EC include disclosure of Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts as well as campaigning expenditure incurred through the Internet.

Election Commission releases guidelines for election coverage

The guidelines encourage all media stakeholders to exercise utmost restraint and shun paid news

New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday released guidelines for election coverage across the print, television and social media, reflecting the increased penetration and proliferation of new media platforms in the country.

“The commission seeks to facilitate the legitimate role of media in elections. At election time it becomes imperative that the media provides people with all information necessary to make informed choices.. media facilitates transparency, informed choice through debates and analysis," said a Handbook for Media issued by the EC.

Broadly, the guidelines outline the need for neutral and objective coverage of the elections and encourage all media stakeholders to exercise utmost restraint and shun paid news—a phenomenon in which media present political parties and candidates in a favourable light in return for money.

The nine-phase general election went underway on Monday and will conclude on 12 May. The results will be declared on 16 May.

The Press Council of India (PCI) has already released guidelines for the print media, urging publications to report objectively, without any communal or caste bias, to refrain from publishing false or unverified allegations against any candidate/party, and not to publish ads on the achievements of a party in power or government at the cost of the public exchequer.

News channels need to disclose their political affiliation with any party/candidate and must resist all political or financial pressures that may affect coverage of the elections, as per guidelines issued by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), the self-regulatory body for news channels. Reports related to opinion polls need disclosures on who commissioned, conducted and paid for the broadcast.

New media guidelines set by the EC include disclosure of Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts as well as campaigning expenditure incurred through the Internet.

“This includes payment made to internet companies and websites for carrying advertisements and also campaign related operational expenditure on making of creative content.," the media handbook said.

Legal provisions related to election campaigning include restriction on opinion polls and exit polls from the first day of voting up to the last one, till half an hour after polling ends, with respect to multi-phased elections.

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