ECP tells media to be neutral -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

ECP tells media to be neutral

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sikander Shaheen

ISLAMABAD – The Election Commission of Pakistan has suggested a ‘code of ethics’ for media for the coverage of the general elections. The code of ethics is prepared following creation of a Media Accountability Commission by the Supreme Court that gave its recommendations to the ECP on Tuesday. The code is prepared in the wake of severe and categorical criticism the ECP faces in media due to its apparent negligence and inability to deal with several key electoral issues. It appears to have raised the question whether the ECP would attempt to ‘deter’ the media on the eve of and during the general elections by introducing and applying seemingly unnecessary rules that are already being followed in a large section of mainstream Pakistani media, while the electoral body receives commendation and condemnation from journalists, politicians and civil society depending on the kind of decisions it takes on given pretexts.

The ‘code of ethics’ says, media has a duty to ensure that the public are properly informed about relevant electoral matters such as political parties, candidates, campaign issues, and voting processes.“Publicly owned media has a specific mandate requiring fairness and non-discrimination in their election reporting and not to discriminate against any political party or candidate.

All media houses should also follow professional standards and strive for accuracy, balance and impartiality as far as possible,” it says.The draft suggests to discourage “all forms of hate speech” that can be interpreted as incitement to violence or has the effect of promoting public disorder. The code says, the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists to report freely should be respected by all parties/candidates and State authorities during the election.

“There should be provision of full access to information during the election period and afterwards.”According to the draft, the authorities should make ‘special efforts’ to investigate all acts of violence, intimidation or harassment directed against media personnel or the property or premises of a media outlet, and to bring those responsible to justice, particularly where the act was motivated by an intent to interfere with media freedom. “There should be no prior censorship of any election coverage/programme.

All political parties and State institutions must issue a clear statement that the media will not be penalised for broadcasting/publishing programmes/contents merely because they are critical of a certain party or a type of politics,” it says.Other contents of the excessively lengthy draft are: The media shall not be held responsible legally for unlawful statements made by candidates or party representatives and broadcast during the course of election campaigns. Any candidate/party, which has been defamed or is a victim of gross misrepresentation or other illegal injury by broadcast of information should be entitled to a correction and where appropriate granted an opportunity to reply.

All paid materials, media campaigns for elections paid by candidates or their supporters must be clearly shown as paid advertisements/campaign/content and should be done in a transparent manner in accordance with the code of ethics for elections issued by the ECP.Electoral body will evolve a ‘suitable mechanism’ for the implementation of media code of ethics prepared by the representatives of various media organisations.

Source: The Nation

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