The guidelines issued by the EC to journalists with several “do's and don'ts” will only create impediments for journalists in carrying out their duty. This is the first time that the EC has imposed caveats on the functioning of journalists by imposing extraordinary conditions on their movements while covering the polls. We fail to see the logic behind preventing journalists from using motorbikes on Election Day. Motorbikes are the fastest and easiest means of getting from one polling centre to another. And isn't that what the reporters are supposed to do to get the news to the people as quickly as possible?
Never before were reporters required to seek permission before taking pictures of a polling booth or the polling centre. Why has it become necessary now to seek the permission of the presiding officer before taking pictures? The so-called secret room—the polling booth—has been placed virtually out of bounds for photographers. Live telecast from a “safe distance” is permitted on the condition that it would not hamper casting of votes.
One has never heard of any instance where photography or live telecast or presence of journalists has disrupted voting. What does the EC mean by “safe distance” and who would determine what exactly is a “safe distance”?
We understand that the EC and the law enforcers have to adopt measures to ensure trouble-free voting. But that should not entail curtailing the normal way of life of the public. Gathering information and delivering it to the people is the duty of the media, particularly when it comes to an election with high stakes.
We hope the EC would realise that journalists never hamper voting. In fact, in some cases their coverage of an incident has helped the agencies to react instantly. Reports have little value without evidence that pictures provide of an incident. Therefore, instead of restricting the movements and activities of journalists, the EC should facilitate easy coverage of the polls.