ECP issues code of conduct for media

Code guidelines outline ethics of coverage; prohibits expressing biased opinions that undermine Pakistan's sovereignty

Our Correspondent October 14, 2023


The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday  has released a 17-point code of conduct for the national media ahead of the upcoming general elections, outlining various guidelines they are required to adhere to during the campaign and polling.

The code released on Saturday applies to print, electronic, digital media, and social media influencers.

The ECP specified that the media should refrain from expressing biased opinions that undermine Pakistan's ideals, sovereignty, security, independence, and the integrity of the judiciary and other national institutions.

Furthermore, any statements or accusations that pose a threat to national unity and the law-and-order situation will be strictly prohibited from being broadcast.

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The code prohibits the inclusion of material that engages in attacks against candidates or political parties based on gender, religion, or community.

Any violation of the code will be treated seriously, and allegations made by one candidate against another will require confirmation from both sides before prosecution can commence.

In order to ensure compliance with the code, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), Pakistan Information Department (PID), and the Cyber Digital Wing of the Ministry of Information will actively monitor the coverage given to political parties and candidates.

To support the electoral watchdog in implementing the code, PEMRA, PTA, PID, and the Cyber Digital Wing of the Ministry of Information will provide assistance.

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To ensure the smooth functioning of the election process, the media campaign will conclude 48 hours before election day and the electoral process will not be interrupted. Besides, surveying in polling stations or constituencies that may adversely impact voters will be avoided.

Only accredited media representatives will be allowed to enter the polling stations, accompanied by a camera to document the polling process. However, the secret ballots will not be videotaped, and media representatives will observe the count without cameras.

The code also emphasises that media representatives must not engage in activities that obstruct the election process before, during, or after the voting.

Lastly, the broadcast of election results will be prohibited until one hour after the end of polling, it will be stated explicitly that the results are unofficial and incomplete, and they will only be considered final when officially declared by the Returning Officer.

It is important to note that a journalist or media organisation may have their accreditation terminated if they violate the code of conduct.

International media, observers

The ECP also released a 31-point code of conduct for foreign media and observers in relation to the upcoming general elections.

The code of conduct requires media personnel from international media outlets as well as observers to submit their visa applications on time and not to stay in the country beyond the designated visa period. It also emphasises the importance of respecting Pakistan's sovereignty, individual freedom, and fundamental rights.

The code further highlights upholding the constitution and the law, as well as respecting the election commission and its officials. International media and observers are expected to maintain unbiased, objective, and accurate reporting and observations throughout the election process.

Additionally, it mandates that they follow the instructions of the commission and state authorities. They are also encouraged to adhere to the advice provided by the government and security agencies for their own safety.

Regarding their conduct during the elections, the code stipulates that they must remain neutral and abstain from expressing bias or preferences for any political party or candidate. Furthermore, they are prohibited from obstructing any processes before, during, or after the elections and must select observation areas in consultation with the ECP to ensure their own security.

Furthermore, the code urges observers to refrain from conducting surveys in polling stations and constituencies that may potentially impact voters. Official results issued by the ECP or the Returning Officer are to be broadcast exclusively.

Observers are encouraged to submit their suggestions, reports, and results to the commission, government, and law enforcement agencies.


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