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Thursday July 18, 2024

ECP issues code of conduct for national, foreign observers, media

International observers, media persons shall respect sovereignty as well as fundamental rights, freedom of people, says ECP

By Mumtaz Alvi
October 15, 2023
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside Pakistan’s election commission building in Islamabad on August 2, 2023. — AFP
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside Pakistan’s election commission building in Islamabad on August 2, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued the code of conduct for international, national observers and media, calling for strict adherence to the law and impartiality.

The code of conduct for international observers/ media says the international observers and media persons intending to visit Pakistan shall submit their visa applications well in time according to the rules laid down by relevant authorities of the Government of Pakistan. No observer or media person shall stay in Pakistan beyond the prescribed duration of granted visa. “The international observers and media persons shall respect the sovereignty of Pakistan as well as fundamental rights and freedom of its people. It is expected that the observers shall maintain good behaviour, respect local laws, including exhibiting sensitivity for culture and customs of the country, and shall observe the highest level of professionalism,” the ECP said.

“They shall adhere to the laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and respect the authority of the Election Commission and its election officials. Political impartiality shall be maintained by observers at all costs while observing the election process,” it added.

“The international observers and media persons at all times during election process shall maintain strict political impartiality. They shall not exhibit any bias or preference with regard to local authorities, political parties and candidates as well as any issue related to the process of election. Observers shall not conduct or participate in any activity which may generate an impression of favouring or opposing any political party or a candidate.

“They shall not interfere in the internal process of any polling station, and they shall not conduct or participate in any activity that may generate an impression of favoring or opposing any political party or a candidate.

“No international radio or television channel shall broadcast/ telecast or print media shall publish anything that adversely affects the public opinion against a particular political party or a candidate in Pakistan. This code of conduct is also applicable to official social media accounts of international newspapers, channels, media persons and other social media influencers.

“The government and law-enforcement agencies of Pakistan shall provide protection to international observers and media persons to maintain their security. In case of violation of this code of code of conduct, the Election Commission reserves to withdraw observer’s accreditation of an individual observer mission and individual journalist/ media organisation. The authority to determine the violation also rests with the Election Commission of Pakistan,” the code of conduct for national observers said.

It added that the observers may observe election process on the polling day with the ECP permission. No person will be permitted to observe the election process unless he or she presents accreditation card issued by the authorised officer of the commission.

The code of conduct for national media said that during election campaign, the content floated on print, electronic and digital media shall not reflect any opinion prejudicial to the ideology, sovereignty, dignity or security of Pakistan, public order or the integrity and independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, and other national institutions.

It added that allegations and statements which may harm national solidarity or may create law and order situation from the issuance of election schedule till the notification of returned candidate shall be strictly avoided on print and electronic media and by any media person, newspaper and channel operating official account on digital media and other social media influencers.

According to the code, if a candidate makes an allegation against other candidate, the media should seek comments and verification from both sides by providing fair opportunities to both the sides.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Press Information Department, Cyber Wing and Digital Media Wing of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall monitor the coverage given to political parties and candidates for their election campaigns through electronic channels, print and social media.

“The above authorities shall submit to the commission details of payments made by the political parties and candidates within ten days after the polling day,” it said. No print, electronic or digital media shall run campaign of candidates and political parties at the cost of public exchequer. In light of Section 182 of the Elections Act 2017, any media person on print, electronic and social media refrain from projecting election campaign of any candidate or political party during a period of 48 hours, ending at midnight following the conclusion of poll for any election. During coverage of polling process, media persons shall not obstruct directly or indirectly any pre-election, election and post-election process.

Broadcasters will air results after one hour of polling ending with clear disclaimer that these are unofficial, incomplete and fractional results, which should not be taken as final results until returning officer has announced results of the constituency.

In case of any violation, the commission may direct concerned authorities for appropriate action. In case of violation of this code, the Election Commission reserves the right to withdraw accreditation of an individual journalist/ media organisation. The authority to determine the violation also rests with the ECP.