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Tough rules set on opinion polls

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The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) and media houses have developed a media Code of Conduct for reporting 2019 tripartite elections.
In the Code of Conduct, there are strict measures that will ensure media houses announce results of opinion polls in a way that will give people a clear picture of the poll.
The stakeholders discussed and eventually signed the Code of Conduct in Lilongwe yesterday.
The Code of Conduct says media houses should not present random surveys as scientific opinion polls.
It says, in reporting opinion polls, the media need to reveal which party, an individual or organisation commissioned and paid for the poll, the purposes of the poll, the identity of the organisation and its expertise in polling.
The Code of Conduct also says the media should highlight the nature of the questions asked in the poll, the geographic coverage and methodologies used.
In the Code of Conduct, it has been stated that the media should refrain from publishing opinion poll results or any other projections of election results after official campaign period and on the polling day.
The Code of Conduct has also tackled issues of time allocation to candidates, professional practices, opinion and analyses, media public accountability, political parties’ duty to inform the media and converged media.
Mec had initially proposed that drones should not be permitted at polling stations because they can disturb orderly polling.
However, delegates did not agree with the to Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah, the issue will be covered in guidelines on how pictures should be taken on polling day.
Ansah has said there are already punitive measures for non-compliant media houses.
“From previous practices, some media houses do not necessarily comply through and through. And when they don’t comply, the Media Code of Conduct has got penalties and ways of dealing with non-compliant media houses. And one of the measures is that they will not be allowed to continue with the coverage,” Ansah said.
During the opening ceremony of the exercise, Ansah said the electoral body recognises the role the media play in the electoral process.
She said the media has a duty to educate and inform the electorate. She stressed that involvement of the media in civic education contributes to low null and void votes.
“With your investigative skills, the media should also help check the existence of any fraud or malpractice in conformity with the law. By exposing such ills, you also greatly contribute towards free, fair, credible and transparent inclusive elections,” Ansah said.

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