The Election Commission is determined to counter the practice of paid news in the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections. Speaking at a media workshop on Monday, Election Commission Director-General Akshay Rout said that he hopes that when the report card on Delhi comes out on the issue of paid news it will say “nil” cases. “It should not be the case that we could not find cases instead it should be that it did not happen,” he said.
The names of those indulging in paid news, including candidates and media houses, will be uploaded on the website of the EC, said Mr. Rout. “Paid news cases in the print media will be referred to the Press Council of India and those in the electronic media will be referred to the National Broadcasting Standards Authority,” he said. These measures will be enforced in Delhi for the first time, said the Director-General.
“There is plenty of circumstantial evidence but no clinching evidence when it comes to paid news. Even though the level of intelligence is rising on paid news we will strengthen our fight against it,” he said. Forty per cent of all election expenditure of political parties relates to media, he added.
Mr. Rout said the “Commission believes that self-regulation of the media is the answer.” He further appealed that the media to follow Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which ‘prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.’
The Election Commission has also decided to take up media reports about violations of the Model Code of Conduct. “Any report that comes through from media about violations in Model Code of Conduct will be taken up suo motu as complaint,” he said.
As an electoral reform proposal, the Election Commission has also recommended that advertisements of political parties be stopped six months before elections are due in any State or in the country.