|HOME | ELECTION | REPORT|
|September 23, 1999||
Guidelines on opinion/exit polls still valid: Press Council
Justice (retired) P B Sawant, chairman of the Press Council of India, today advised both the print and the electronic media to adhere to its 1996 guidelines on opinion and exit polls to ensure free and fair elections.
The PCI guidelines are against the publication of exit poll results until the end of polling in all phases and call for proper prefacing while publishing or telecasting them.
The guidelines, however, do not impose any ban on surveys.
The guidelines were intended to avoid exploitation of the media by individuals and groups to misguide and mislead unwary voters, Justice Sawant said.
Replying to a volley of questions on the people's right to information and the desirability of issuing the clarification mid-way through the election, Sawant said the situation had arisen from the recent Supreme Court ruling that the Election Commission had no power to ban exit and opinion polls.
The judgment had created confusion whether the PCI guidelines still prevail, he said, adding that the council would initiate a national debate on the implications of allowing the media to carry opinion and exit polls. This would eventually lead to the enactment of suitable laws by Parliament, he said.
Sawant, however, made it clear that the PCI had jurisdiction only over the print media and not over radio and television channels. He referred to the PCI recommendation to the government to set up a council to regulate both the media.
On exit polls, he said that when the elections are staggered there is no excuse for publishing them before the last poll is over, since the publication of such surveys analysing voting patterns and speculating on the results is likely to influence voters in areas where polling is yet to take place.
He reminded the media of the PCI guidelines that "no newspaper shall publish surveys of exit polls, however genuine they may be, till the last date of polling is over".
He said violation of these guidelines is a violation of ethics and not of the law and emphasised that they were issued to preserve, protect and promote democracy without which freedom of speech and expression and a free press would not prevail.
Asked if Indian democracy was being manipulated through such exit and opinion polls, Sawant, who is also president of the World Association of Press Councils, observed: "Yes, it may be."
On journalists' insistence that voters had a right to information, the PCI chief said that in a democracy judgement should be made independently by voters without any manipulation of their minds.
Sawant, who addressed the press in the presence of other members of the council, sought to drive home his point by noting that the Election Commission is going to take up counting of votes only after completion of the polling process.
Even Western countries follow this practice of counting all the votes at the end of polling in all phases, he said.
The PCI chief, however, made it clear that the council had not yet received formal complaints in connection with the violation of its guidelines by the media. Nevertheless, it has taken note of the regular publication of exit poll results despite the guidelines.
The PCI has deputed independent observers to various parts of the country to keep watch on the adherence to its guidelines by the print media and will decide what should be done after receiving reports from them, he said.
Among the PCI members present on the occasion were Vishwa Bandhu Gupta and Manorama Diwan and PCI secretary Prem Kumar.
ELECTION 99 |
SINGLES | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK