Self regulation is undoubtedly central to the strict dos and don’ts laid down by the Election Commission of India on ‘paid news’, now with the election code of conduct in force. On the other hand, there are certain grey areas wherein it becomes difficult to pick the chaff from the grain and this is where strict scrutiny by all media professionals becomes paramount. Money may be paid or not, but the spirit behind the strict steps taken up to identify news which may be categorised as ‘paid news’ should be appreciated and acknowledged. This is election time and without a doubt all political parties and each candidate will want as much publicity as possible, and this is where it becomes the duty of every media establishment and every journalists to ensure that equal publicity is given to all. However, as pointed out here, there are grey areas and this is where the media professionals will need to tread with caution. Just to cite an example, an election campaign participated by the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister of the State which is going to polls has the better chance of getting more publicity than say a campaign organised and attended by a first time candidate. That is unless the candidate is a well known or a controversial figure. This is where the professional judgement of the journalists becomes important.
Nothing is in black and white and while this is certainly not a trial of the media, thoughts need to be given on why the ECI has deemed it proper to come out with the list of dos and don’ts during election time. And when one thinks about it deeper, the question arises on why such a code of conduct should come only during times of election. Certainly there are dos and don’ts laid down by the Press Council of India and there is something called the code of ethics for journalists across the spectrum to follow, but it should be obvious that not all have been following the dos and don’ts laid down by the PCI and adhere to the professional code of ethics. This is about the journalists and their conduct but what about the professional politicians and the political parties they belong to ? How about the All India Radio and Doordarshan, which are wholly owned by the Government ? The code of conduct may apply to them as well during election time, but how about the other times ? In its essence the dos and don’ts should be the guiding light for all media professionals throughout the years and not only during election time when the code of conduct comes into force.
Source: The Sangai Express