With just a day left for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission (EC) has banned distribution of results of opinion polls and exit polls by the media. The ban came into effect from 1500 hours on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 and had been brought in the wake of a Supreme Court order, the EC announced.
The EC had earlier issued guidelines, which had made it clear that results of opinion and exit polls carried out any time “cannot be published, publicised or disseminated in any manner during the period starting from 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in the first phase”.
The ban would remain in force till the conclusion of the last phase of the elections, the EC said. The last phase of polling is on May 13, while the counting of votes would take place on May 16.
Acting on the Supreme Court order, the Commission had issued detailed guidelines on February 17 for publication and dissemination of results of opinion and exit polls.
The ban applies to the electronic media, including radio and television – both Government-owned and private – and also covers satellite, DTH, terrestrial and cable channels. Dissemination also includes publication in any newspaper, magazine or periodical or display on electronic media or circulation by means of any pamphlet, poster, placard, handbill or any other document, the EC guidelines said.
Reacting to the EC ban, N Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu Group, said, “The Election Commission has no jurisdiction to curtail the right of freedom of the press by barring the media from distributing results of opinion and exit polls.”
He further said, “Firstly, it’s unreasonable and curtails freedom of speech (Article 19 (1)/A. Secondly, the Election Commission has no influence to make any progress, such a ban was imposed earlier, too, during the time of MS Gill. Thirdly, it does not make any difference in the media.”
Punya Prasun Bajpai, Consulting Editor, Zee News, opined, “This is not the right decision. Whether media is protesting or not, but this is a totally undemocratic style of Election Commission of India.”
Sudhir Chowdhary, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, Live India, said, “Media has played a very fair role in terms of election coverage, and no responsible channel or newspaper will try to give a biased shade towards any political party or candidate.”
He further said, “I don’t see any harm in broadcasting interviews and debates based on the election issues. I wish the Election Commission had consulted all editors of the news channels.”
Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, Network18, could not be contacted for comments at the time of filling this report.