ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued a 30-point code of conduct for international observers and media persons, providing guidelines for conduct, impartiality and security during the observation and reporting of the country’s electoral process, aimed at ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.

According to the code of conduct, individuals or groups who observe and report on the electoral process in Pakistan must read and sign a code of conduct that includes a pledge. This code of conduct is also applicable on official social media accounts of international newspapers, channels, media persons and other social media influencers.

It stated: “International observers and media personnel must follow the rules for visa applications and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and the fundamental rights and freedoms of its people. They cannot stay beyond the duration of their granted visa.

International observers and media should follow the Constitution and laws of Pakistan and respect the Election Commission and its officials. Observations and reporting should be impartial, objective, and accurate.

“International observers and media must follow instructions from the Election Commission and state authorities and maintain a respectful attitude. Comply with safety advisories from the government or security agencies. Respect the culture and customs of the country and act professionally.

Media persons asked to abide by Pakistan’s laws, respect commission and its officials

“Display official identification badges at all times and present them when requested. Maintain political impartiality, with no bias or preference for political parties or candidates. Obey rules for photography and restrictions on taking pictures. Ask questions and clear queries without obstructing the election process. Work harmoniously with other observers, media, and polling staff.”

The code of conduct asked the observers to consult with ECP for safety and select areas for observation to ensure balanced reporting. The international election observers and media persons may hire the services of Pakistani interpreters if required. However, they shall provide all necessary details of these interpreters while applying for accreditation card. These interpreters shall also remain non-partisan and unbiased.

It said: “Observe and report without interfering in the proceedings. Avoid interference in internal process at any polling station. Avoid personal/professional relationships that could lead to a conflict of interest. Avoid taking gifts or favours from political parties/organisations/persons involved in the election. Avoid wearing/carrying/displaying of party symbols/colours. Avoid making personal comments on observation or conclusion to media.

“Avoid activities that favour or oppose political parties/candidates. International media content should not threaten the peace/security of Pakistan or incite hatred/violence against any group/person. Avoid personal attacks on candidates/political parties based on gender, religion, sect, caste, etc.

“No broadcasting/printing of content that adversely affects public opinion against a political party/candidate. Refrain from conducting surveys/polls that may influence voters’ choice and only broadcast/publish official election results issued by the Election Commission. Share findings/methodology/recommendations/reports with Election Commission.”

“The government and law enforcing agencies of Pakistan shall provide security to international observers and media persons. Violation of the code of conduct may result in withdrawal of observer accreditation/journalist accreditation. The authority to determine the violation also rests with the Election Commission of Pakistan.”

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2023

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