The Election Commission has cracked the whip on media houses and candidates indulging in paid news during elections by adopting a “name and shame” policy.
The Commission in the last few years has increased its vigil against paid news, considered an election malpractice, across the country.
As many as 42 cases of paid news were reported in Karnataka during the assembly elections in May, whereas over 80 cases of paid news were reported from Tamil Nadu during last year’s assembly elections. There were 276 cases of paid news in Gujarat, 104 in Himachal Pradesh and 250 in Bihar during the assembly polls.
According to the EC, paid news is an advertisement under the grab of news promoting a particular candidate. The district media certification and monitoring committee headed by the district electoral officer is responsible for spotting instances of paid news.
As per the commission’s latest directive to all Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs), the decision of the committee on paid news would be posted on their respective websites as part of its “name” and “shame” policy.
“The name of the media house and the candidate would be posted on the website of the CEOs and the EC once a paid news is confirmed,” said Akshay Rout, director general (media and communication).
However, lack of proper investigation has been a major issue in identifying paid news items. Commission officials said CEOs have to ensure that a final decision on paid news is taken only after hearing to all sides of the story.
“We would like them to consult the Press Council of India in case of print media and News Broadcaster Association in case of electronic media,” a senior commission official said.
Once a news item is declared paid news, the Commission adds up its cost as election expenditure of the candidate sponsoring the news item. However, it cannot take any action against the candidate or the media house.