Karthik Madhavan

ERODE: District administration headed by Collector Mahesan Kasirajan, who is also the District Election Officer (DEO), has, since the date of declaration of election, not met the media for election-related news.

On Friday last, he convened an all-party meeting for a briefing on model code of conduct and asking parties to adhere to the same. The meeting was off-limits for media personnel; the only consolation was the couple of minutes’ permission for videographers and photographers to shoot and click pictures.

The Friday’s meeting was the first time the Collector met people’s representatives on election-related duty. But he chose not to share the details. Officials said Collector preferred to not have the media around. This flies in the face of Election Commission of India’s guidelines to officials participating in poll preparations.

Transparency is the key for an effective and efficient election management, for transparency adds to the credibility to the election. Hence you should keep the political parties and candidates informed of the Commission’s instructions from time to time.

The Election Commission further says, Your interaction with the media should be positive and you should make good use of the media to disseminate relevant information to the voters as well as to other stakeholders. The Commission goes so far as to say that the District Election Officer should share with media nomination papers, affidavits in support of and sworn affidavits contradicting the details in the nomination papers.

That is not all. ECI has issued a Media Policy on the conduct of elections. Therein it instructs District Elections Officer, Returning Officer and all other officials on how to involve the media in elections.

The Policy says, District Magistrates (Collectors) and District Superintendents of Police shall jointly hold press briefings at least five times during the process of election in the districts in which an election is held. Comprehensive press handouts shall be distributed among the media persons at these briefings.

It further says that soon after the Date of Notification March 12, 2009 the Collector should share with the media the map of constituency showing locations of polling stations, and routes; list of recognised political parties, their office; number of electors, number of women electors; names, addresses and telephone numbers of statutory officers; gist of important instructions issued by Election Commission; the programme of election; preparedness to hold peaceful free and fair poll; and Model Code of Conduct and preparedness to ensure its observance.

But none of the above except the voters’ details have been shared with the media so far.

Asked for his comments, Collector and District Election Officer Mahesan Kasirajan had this to say: I’m not shying away from the media and interactions with the media will be held.