Election Commission warns media houses on paid news

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 03, 2013 22:50 hrs

Chennai: The Election Commission on Wednesday said it has set up state and district level media certification and monitoring committees (MCMC) to check instances of paid news ahead of the state assembly polls.

"Paid news is a very complex problem and we have taken the issue seriously to ensure level playing field to all political parties and candidates in the coming elections to the state legislative assembly on May 5," Akshay Rout, director general, Election Commission said.

Addressing a 'Media Workshop on Electoral Process' here, jointly organised by Election Commission, state information department and Karnataka Madhyama Academy, he said the Commission would follow the Bihar model and take action on those who violate the norms.

"Paid news had disturbed the political arena. It gives a candidate an undue advantage over his poll rivals and also amounts to Right to Information Act. But there is no clinching evidence to take action against paid news", he said.

Noting that "print and electronic media are eyes and ears on the ground" to the commission, Rout said "we will take suo motu complaint based on media reports on violation of model of code of conduct during the election process and initiate action against the erring political parties.

He said parties were spending unaccounted money through paid news and it was not a healthy trend for political parties, governments, and the economy. Use of money power to influence voters would come in the ways of free and fair elections, he said.

However, he said the Election Commission had no intention of imposing press censorship in the name of curbing paid news. The Commission has reasonable success in controlling the paid news during the poll period in several states, he said.

The media houses should impose self regulation on themselves and exercise caution while publishing the news related to elections.

He appealed to the print and electronic media not to project any candidate or the party and thereby influence voters just 48 hours before polling. Projecting a candidate or the party 48 hours before polling was an offence under the Representation of People's Act, he added.

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