Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

PCI issues guidelines for objective reporting on polls


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Press Council of India

Mains level : Need for regulation (not censoring) of Mass Media

  • The Press Council of India (PCI) on asked the media to give objective reports about the election and cautioned it against the phenomenon of paid news.

Guidelines by PCI

[I] A note for Media

  • The PCI said newspapers are not expected to indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate or party during the elections.
  • It will be the duty of the press to give objective reports about the election and the candidates.
  • While reporting on the actual campaign, a newspaper may not leave out any important point raised by a candidate and make an attack on his or her opponent.
  • It also cautioned the press to eschew reports which tend to promote feelings or enmity or hatred between people on the grounds of region, religion, race, caste, community or language.
  • The press should refrain from publishing false or critical statements in regard to the personal character and conduct of any candidate or in relation to the candidature or withdrawal of any candidate or candidature.

[II] Against unverified news

  • The PCI also cautioned against publishing unverified allegations against any candidate or party.
  • The council said whenever the newspapers publish pre-poll surveys, they should take care to preface them conspicuously.
  • They should indicate the institutions which have carried on such surveys, the individuals and organisations which have commissioned them, the size and nature of sample selected and the method of selection of the sample for the findings.

[III] Against paid news

  • The PCI asked the media to guard against paid news which it defined as “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”.

[IV] Lighter note for Authorities

  • It also urged authorities that rules and orders regulating entry of the media persons to places of election should be notified and the cut-off date for applying for passes should be given due and advance publicity.
  • The authorities cannot prohibit the use of vehicles by the media persons for movement during elections although its use for the voters by candidates and their agents is prohibited.
  • This is because the journalist have to move from booth to booth and collect information from all the centres whether on the polling day or at the time of counting.


Press Council of India

  • The Press Council of India is a statutory, quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press.
  • It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively.
  • The PCI was first constituted on 4th July, 1966 as an autonomous, statutory, quasi-judicial body, with Shri Justice J R Mudholkar, then a Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chairman.
  • A fresh legislation providing for the establishment of the Council was enacted in 1978 through Press Council Act of 1978 and the institution came to be reviewed in the year 1979.


  • The present Council is a body corporate having perpetual succession. It consists of a Chairman and 28 other members.
  • Its members include working journalists, management of newspapers and those who manage news channels.
  • It also includes 3 persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of education and science, law and literature and culture. One member each is nominated by the UGC, the Bar Council of India and the Sahitya Academy
  • The remaining five are to MPs : three from Lok Sabha, and two from Rajya Sabha.


  • The Act provides for selection of the Chairman by a Committee consisting of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Speaker of Lok Sabha and a person elected by the members of the Council from among themselves.
  • By Convention the Chairman is been a retire judge of Supreme Court
  • The term of the Chairman and the members of the Council is three years. A retiring member is eligible for renomination for not more than one term


  • Power to Censure news paper / agency / editors / journalist if they offended against the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste or that an editor or a working journalist has committed any professional misconduct
  • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and examining them on oath
  • Receiving evidence on affidavits etc.
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