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EC's Media Code of Conduct For CA Elections

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The Election Commission spells out a 19-point news media Code of Conduct for the upcoming CA elections.

Okay, okay, the CA elections may not be held on April 10, if they are postponed once again. But for the Nepali news media, there is no harm in knowing what the Election Commission wants them to do during the election process.

Nepal Monitor has gotten a draft copy of a 98-point, 17-page "Code of Conduct on Election to Members of the Constituent Assembly, 2064 (2008)" drafted by the Election Commission. A section of this document provides a Code of Conduct to be observed by Mass Media (Chapter 4, pages 8, 9 and 10).

The Code urges all forms of Nepali media to adhere to journalistic principles of accuracy, fairness, balance and openness, to help raise awareness about the election, and to upheld professional ethics. It calls on journalists to avoid discriminatory and inflammatory tendencies, and to encourage participation of marginalized groups in the electoral process.

Media must rectify mistakes once they are detected, broadcast channels must provide free airtime to political parties in proportion to the number of their candidates, must strictly observe rules about the tactic period, says the Code by the EC.

Editorial balance, fairness, inclusiveness and voter education is also the responsibly of the government media, it adds.

News media must retain all published or broadcast materials until 35 days after their dissemination, it says.

The Code also has a provision for a media monitoring program for the election process.

Besides the Code of Conduct to be observed by Mass Media, the document covers other important topics: "Preliminary" (Chapter 1), "Conduct to be Observed by Political Parties and Candidates" (Chapter 2), "Conduct to be Observed by Government of Nepal and Governmetal or Semi-governmental Offices and Employees" (Chapter 3), "Provision Relating to Election Expenses" (Chapter 5), "Implementation and Monitoring" (Chapter 6) and "Miscellaneous" (Chapter 7).

The media code of conduct will come into force on March 2, 2008. The CA elections will be held on April 10 (if they are not postponed once again!)

The following is the unauthorized translation of "Code of Conduct to be observed by Mass Media" (Chapter 4 of the document):

Code of Conduct to be observed by Mass Media

The governmental, semi-governmental and private sector mass media (audio, visual and printing) shall, subject to the following basic principles, conduct, or cause to be conducted, election canvassing related programs as follows:

Basic Principles
61. Focus shall be on the dissemination of detailed, true and unbiased information in the context of protecting the right of voters to express their vote freely.

62. High priority shall be accorded to the dissemination of news related to the promoting of public awareness about election.

Dissemination of true, impartial and balanced news
63. Information and news relating to election shall be disseminated properly without being biased.

64. All necessary information and news relating to election shall not be hidden or suppressed or prevented from being disseminated.

65. Electoral news and information shall not be published or broadcast in such a way that confuses the general public.

66. All subjects reflecting the concern of the general public shall, as far as possible, be included in the information and news. If any person causes obstruction or hindrance in the collection and dissemination of such information, that matter shall also be disseminated.

67. News concerning political parties or candidates shall be disseminated without bias. While disseminating news, no special treatment shall be accorded to a leader or political party, or candidate or ruling party.

Conduct of mass media
68. In course of election publicity and canvassing, no undue benefits from anyone shall be accepted, nor shall anything be done that is against professional ethics and norms.

69. Use of language that suggests discrimination or incites violence in any way, or that may adversely affect the goodwill among Dalits, oppressed caste/ethnic indigenous groups, backward regions, Madhesis including gender, linguistic, religious and political or other groups shall not be permitted.

70. The mass media shall play conducive role to encourage the participation of the marginalized groups such as women, Dalits, oppressed caste/ethnic groups, Madhesis and others in election and launch public awareness programs.

Duty to make correction
71. If any error and misinterpretation has been detected in already published and disseminated materials, high priority shall be given by the concerned media house to carry out the correction on the report.

Free air time
72. The broadcasting services shall provide free air time set forth in Section 73 to any political party taking part in the election under the proportional electoral system in proportion to the total candidates fielded by it, for the purpose of canvassing.

73. While providing free time as mentioned in Section 72, it shall be divided into a total of three phases and radio and television time shall be provided to a political party in proportion to the candidates fielded by the political party. While providing such time, in the first phase, 5-20 minutes of radio time, in proportion to the candidates fielded by a political party, shall be given to the political party for making public the manifesto of that political party; in the second phase 2-5 minutes for election canvassing through television, and in the third phase, one minute each, prior to the commencement of the silent period as referred to in Section 74, shall be given to each political party for making final submission for vote on television. While so providing the time to political parties for lection canvassing, the concerned political parties shall prepare materials to be broadcast in the phases mentioned above and provide such materials to the concerned broadcasting service.

Tactic period
74. No communication media shall carry any kind of election related publicity materials, political message or propagation of election campaign 48 hours prior to the polling day and such tacit period shall extend until the last polling centre is closed.

However, this shall not impede the communication of information provided by the Election Commission.

Governmental mass media
75. The governmental publication or broadcasting agencies shall not write or broadcast editorials in favor or against any political party of candidate.

76. The governmental mass media shall, based on clear and reasonable grounds, provide opportunity to political parties or candidates to express their opinions, policies and programs amongst the voters.

77. The governmental mass media shall give priority to publish and broadcast materials relating to voter education.

Maintenance of records
78. The mass media or their representatives shall safely retain any information relating to the election to the members of the Constituent Assembly which has been published or broadcast or disseminated until 35 days after such publication or broadcasting.

79. The Election Commission shall regularly monitor information materials published and broadcast by different communication media in course of conducting electoral publicity campaign, the Election Commission may issue directives to the concerned media to correct matters that constitute violation of election Code of Conduct if such a case is detected in course of monitoring. It shall be the duty of the concerned media to observe the directives of the Election Commission.

The Eglish version of this document is not yet uploaded on EC's website. The Nepali version is available here.


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