Poll panel asks PCI to define paid news

Action in response to an RTI query

The EC directive came in the wake of several complaints of carrying paid news by some media houses during last year’s Lok Sabha elections.

In response to an RTI query demanding details of complaints received by the EC on the matter so far and the action taken on them, the apex election body said it has sought a clear definition of “paid news” from the PCI, the body that governs the conduct of the press.

Election Commission Under Secretary Virendra Kumar said: “The commission has asked the Press Council to frame a definition of paid news and issue guidelines for identifying them.”

The RTI was filed by Anil Charmad of the Media Studies Group and the response was received through a letter dated May 1. It said the complaints received by the EC in connection with the Lok Sabha elections held last year were under consideration. Among them is a complaint against Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya.

“The EC is investigating the complaints against Ashok Chavan and others, lodged by Kirit Somaiya,” it said.

The phenomenon of paid news was criticised recently by Opposition parties which said such news should be declared as an electoral malpractice.

While CPM leader Prakash Karat had said it should be termed as electoral malpractice, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had said since the EC was not adequately empowered to deal with the issue, a bill should be introduced in Parliament to amend the Representation of the People Act.

Meanwhile, the EC also sought information on a complaint on the paid news issue, lodged by Tamil Nadu BSP state secretary Ramasubramaniam from the Chief Information Officer of the area concerned in the state.

The commission also said that it has also sought a report on incidents of media houses being paid to publish news items during the election campaign in Jharkhand last year.
DH News Service

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