The Election Commission (EC) has decided to take tough measures to curb the practice of paid news during the forthcoming assembly polls.
During the past Lok Sabha and assembly polls, political parties and candidates have been using the media, particularly newspapers, to sway voters in their favour by getting news printed in their favour by paying for it.
“The issue has taken huge proportions because the paid news, which actually has no truth, is against the essence of free and fair polls. We have decided to regulate it in the coming state polls,” announced Punjab chief electoral officer (CEO) VK Singh.
The CEO informed that he has put a mechanism and a team in place which would scrutinise all newspapers, after the announcement of polls and imposition of the model code of conduct, to identify paid news.
“Our team will send notices to the candidates or political parties in case we find any paid news given by them, make it public by uploading these news items on our website on day-to-day basis, asking the voters to be careful about the facts in the said news item ,” he said.
Also, if the candidate or a political party fails to clear its stand within 24 hours of EC notice, the commission would take ex-parte decision and ask them to include expenses of the paid news into their poll expenditure, he said.
The EC team would impose cost of paid news on the basis of rates of advertisements offered by the newspaper in which the news is printed, by calculating the total cost from the space consumed by the paid news, he added.
During a meeting with chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi in Chandigarh last month, different political parties had flagged the issue and called for a mechanism to check the practice.
Sources said CEC is concerned about the issue and had instructed its state office to take tough measures in this regard. They said some political parties and their leaders also want the EC to curb the practice of paid news.