‘The silver lining is the media itself is upset about the scourge'
Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Qureshi on Tuesday said the issue of ‘paid news', apart from affecting election expenditure norms, was a “matter of ethical and legal question as voter was taken for a ride.”
He was speaking presspersons here after holding discussions with political parties, State administration officials, and the police separately about the upcoming State Assembly elections.
Mr. Qureshi said that Commission had recently issued a fresh set of guidelines for the Press Council of India to tackle the problem of “paid news” by media players,. However, to tackle the broader issue of deception of the voter during election campaign, a separate law was needed. “It is bothering everybody,” he said.
But admitted its limitations to control media players indulging in paid news and other unethical practices during the elections.
“Our role comes in picture only when the candidate exceeds the expenditure ceiling. We cannot question the media, our powers extend only to candidates,” Mr. Qureshi said.
“The silver lining is that the media itself is upset about the scourge. Many journalists are agitated about it. Some media houses are interested in doing it,” he said. “Money power and paid news have attained serious proportion. In some States, it's widespread,” the Chief Election Commissioner said.
Referring to his discussions with the political parties in Goa, Mr. Qureshi said all parties had complained about migrant workers registering themselves in two places, dual citizenship and concerns about distribution of Election Photo Identity Card. Apart from that the political parties about the use of black money, liquor and other inducements to lure voters.
He said use of liquor was a common problem in Goa and added that some parties complained that this kind of “distribution of goodies” had started in the State.
The political parties complained to the EC about State government's creation of new posts, about rampant paid news problem and suggested dates for the holding of elections in Goa.
Goa, is due for general elections in first week of June 2012. Mr. Qureshi said the Commission had made it clear to election officers and the police officials that neutrality was non-negotiable and EC's “zero tolerance” towards partisan behaviour byofficials.
about the Elector's Photo Identity Card coverage in Goa, he said eight months ago it was 70 per cent, today it had reached close to 95 per cent. As such the EC had decided to go in for EPIC as the only identity card acceptable during coming elections with only alternative being voter slip issued by the Election Commission. “We tried it in Bihar and it worked extremely well,” he said. Mr. Qureshi said the Election Commission was focusing on electoral roll updates especially among the voter between the age of 18 to19 as the enrollment
in this category was very low-15 per cent.
The Chief electoral Officer has been directed to keep an eye on the movement of liquor. Election Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H. S. Brahma were present.