“We have received a complaint from the BJP. We have asked the chief minister to explain. The letter is returnable on February 1. This is where we are,” Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla said.
The BJP's complaint was based on an article that appeared in a major English daily which said Chavan got published same “news stories” word for word in his favour in three different dailies. Nowhere did the word advertisement figure alongside these stories, it said.
Chawla said he cannot prejudge the issue and has to wait for the chief minister’s reply before deciding the course of action. “We are concerned with this phenomenon of paid news in the run-up to elections. We are not the Press Council. What happens before the elections or after the elections is not in our jurisdiction,” he said.
Chawla expressed concern over the paid news practice allegedly prevalent in sections of media. “We have read Sainath’s article. Today we are receiving a delegation of the Editors’ Guild on the issue,” Chawla said.
The Election Commission was awaiting the minutes of the Press Council meeting, held on January 15 and 16, on the paid news syndrome.
Chawla said it was important for the panel to know the recommendations of the Editors’ Guild and the Press Council. “So let me see. Let us get these two important inputs. Let us wait, The issue is not going away. I have expressed that it worries me because what would happen then that if the printed word is doubted by readers then it will compromise an important pillar of democracy.