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EC rejects Press Council's proposal on paid news

J. Balaji


Plan to depute scribes/elders as observers rejected

‘EC will take due cognisance of PCI recommendations


NEW DELHI: Asserting that the Election Commission (EC) will have to work within the Constitutional provisions, relevant acts and electoral laws, the Commission rejected the view of the Press Council of India that its recommendations on “paid news” should be binding on the EC.

It turned down the PCI's another proposal for deputing journalists/senior citizens as election observers to monitor paid news. There was no need for this as the EC, through its circular on June 8, 2010, already directed the setting up of district-level committees and State-level committees to monitor such news during the polls.

The Commission “will take due cognisance of the recommendations of the PCI in alleged incidents of paid news. It, however, does not agree that recommendations of the Press Council should be binding on the Commission as the Commission will have to work within the provisions of the Constitution of India and relevant Acts and electoral laws.”

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Quraishi, while replying to a letter (and a report) written by PCI chairman Justice G.N. Ray on paid news recently, said that while the EC “is doing its best in the matter and assures further cooperation, you would appreciate that the Council has to facilitate more of self-regulation by media and also develop and share with the EC a more exact prescription to adjudge paid news.”

The EC had earmarked specific divisions in its office to receive complaints related to paid news and take action.

Mr. Quraishi said expenditure observers would be suitably briefed about the issue to exercise vigilance and coordinate with the district-level committees.

He wanted the PCI to forward a district-wise list of independent journalists/citizens for inclusion in the committee to scrutinise paid news.

The CEC promised to refer the cases for investigation to the PCI whenever the EC felt it necessary to seek expert guidance from the PCI. “It [the EC] will take due cognisance of the recommendations of the PCI in alleged incidents of paid news,” Mr. Quraishi said.

In a separate circular to Chief Electoral Officers, the EC directed that the district-level committees, to be set up to monitor paid news during polls, should consist of the District Election Officer or the Deputy DEO, the District Public Relations Officer, an official from the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry (if any in the district) and an independent citizen/journalist as might be recommended by the PCI.

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