With complaints against ‘paid news’ on the rise, the Election Commission has asked the Press Council of India to define this phenomenon and prepare guidelines for the identification of such news items.
The EC direction came after it received several complaints on the issue of payment to some media houses for coverage and publication of news 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 has said it has sought a clear definition of ‘paid news’ from the PCI, the body that governs the conduct of the press.
The EC’s 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 political parties which said such news should be declared as an electoral malpractice.
While CPI(M) 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.
It 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.