EC urges editors to refrain from paid news

PTI, NEW DELHI | 04 March 2014 19:47 IST

The chief election commissioner has written to newspaper editors asking them to refrain from publishing paid news that marred the Lok Sabha election of 2009.

Paid news refers to the practice of disguising advertising as news, especially during elections when party promotions are presented as news, allowing politicians to keep their poll expenditure below the stipulated limit.

In a letter dated 1 March, chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath sought “active co-operation” from editors of newspapers to help the commission ensure a “free, fair, peaceful, transparent and participative” election. “Fair election is about ensuring a level playing field and keeping out undue influence,” he wrote.

In his letter, Sampath said that the commission had taken steps to deal with paid news during elections after receiving requests from both media and some sections of the society. The Press Council of India also has well-drafted guidelines on the issue, he added.

“These will remain in force as will other laws, instructions and certain regulatory mechanisms which aim at ensuring that political parties and candidates do not make use of media in a manner that could vitiate the election process,” he wrote. He promised to publish these regulations in a handbook. However, he said that the commission had faith in the capacity of editors and self-discipline of media organizations to not offer any grounds for complaint. He sought the “personal attention” of editors to curb the menace of paid news.

The Election Commission had estimated the market of so-called paid news or political advertising masquerading as journalism at Rs.500 crore.

In November 2013, the government introduced a draft law that allowed for the suspension of the publishing licence of publications that pass off advertisements or paid-for content as news or analysis.

The draft legislation stated that publications “found to be indulging in or having indulged in the practice of paid news, on the basis of adjudication by the Press Council of India or any other quasi judicial/judicial authority...may suspend the publication for such period as may be prescribed by the central government”.

 

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