EC to keep tabs on parties for 'paid news'

Having issued strict guidelines for dealing with complaints of ‘paid news’ by candidates in assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Election Commission will also keep a watch on the activities of political parties for such practices.

Sources say the Commission has already given instructions to poll officials and Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC) in states to keep a vigil on paid news activities of political parties and account them as expenses of their candidates. At present there is no limit on election expenses of political parties while candidates in assembly elections have a limit of Rs 16 lakh each in Gujarat and Rs 11 lakh each in Himachal Pradesh on their poll expenditure.

“The Media Certification and Monitoring Committee at various levels created for looking at paid news activities of candidates are also keeping track of paid news indulged in by political parties,” said Akshay Raut, Director-General of EC. The Commission has already issued stricter guidelines for tackling ‘paid news’ complaints asking MCMCs to issue notices within 96 hours of paid news incidents coming to light and also to candidates to reply to such notices within 48 hours.

The Commission has also asked the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC) at district and state level to decide such cases within the 48 hours of getting the replies.

The EC has said, “The District/State level MCMC shall decide on the reply expeditiously, preferably within 48 hours of receiving of reply and convey to the candidate/party its final decision”.

“The EC is taking note of various paid news practices of political parties and is keeping track of their activities and if such cases of paid news are found, the amount will be accounted for as expenditure of their candidates,” Raut said.

The fresh steps being taken will cover cinema halls, besides TV channels, cable networks and radio.

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