The Press Council of India has formed a four-member committee to investigate the practice of paid news and keep a tab on any other attempt to affect the freedom of the press during the elections in Gujarat.

“Since the Gujarat Legislative Assembly elections are shortly to take place, I am hereby appointing a committee of four members of the Press Council of India who are requested to visit Gujarat soon and make an extensive tour of the whole state, and after thorough investigation, report to me about any incidents of paid news or any kind of violation of press freedom, overt or covert, direct or indirect, in connection with the Gujarat elections,” PCI chairperson Justice Markandeya Katju said in New Delhi.

The members of the committee are Rajeev Ranjan Nag (convener), Kalyan Baruah, Sandeep Shankar and Neeraj Bajpai.

The convener of the committee is authorised to appoint sub-committees and distribute work among the members in any manner he deems fit, the statement added.

Explaining its reason to form the committee, the PCI said that the Election Commission has detected a large number of cases of paid news in the recent Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections.

Paid news can result in cancellation of an election result, and the election result of one person declared elected in the UP Legislative Assembly elections was cancelled on this ground, the PCI statement added.

Gujarat goes to polls on December 13 and 17.