IEC's media coverage rules problematic: Nai
KABUL (PAN): A media advocacy group on Thursday claimed a set of rules governing media activities during the April polls outlined by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) had not only technical and legal issues, but also created problems for media representatives.
Nai, which supports free media in Afghanistan, said the regulation had legal problems and it would create many problems for journalists trying to cover events during the landmark elections.
The IEC’s Electoral Media Commission (EMC) made public the rules on Dec. 30 at the body’s first-ever news conference since its creation the same month.
The 12-Article Regulation on Media Activities during elections relates to activities of mass media during the April 5 elections under the Electoral Law and the Structural Law of IEC.
“The state-owned and private media shall equally treat all the candidates who are taking part in media debates regardless of their positions and shall not demonstrate a special favour to any candidate,” says the regulation.
But Nai chief executive Abdul Mujeeb Khiltwatgar said the article concerning civil rights needed to be changed. “Instead of violation, word infraction has been used in the regulation, while legally the commission can investigate violations by the media, not infractions,” he said.
He said viewpoints regarding candidates had not been incorporated in the bill, adding Article 5 of the bill insisted that presidential and provincial council candidates could not perform as programme anchors at TV and radio shows.
The article says: “Owners of media outlets, journalists, executives and radio and TV programme presenters, who have nominated themselves as candidates, cannot perform as hosts or critics.”
But Khilwatgar said the article was in contradiction with article 25 of the labour law that asked only government officials to resign posts before jumping into the electoral fray.
“Working is the basic right of journalists, who should not be deprived of this,” he said.
He also said the rules governing media activities during the elections had called on media outlets to submit reports on income they earned from advertisement for candidates with the Media Commission each month.
He said media outlets submitted such reports to the Ministry of Finance at the end of each fiscal year and it was not necessary they should submit the same to the media commission as well.
To a question, he said they had been asking the media commission as of yesterday to share the regulation with them before publishing it, but there had been no response.
He said it was either beyond the ability of the media commission members to prepare flawless rules or they had deliberately prepared the regulation to strengthen their authority.
But EMC head Farida Nekzad said the regulation had been prepared in line with recommendations by media representatives and articles 50th and 60th of the election law.
She denied the regulation had any technical or legal problems, saying the guidelines enabled media representatives to properly cover the elections. She said violators of the rules could face warnings and cash fines.
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