Paid News are hampering the elections - Seeker's Thoughts

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Paid News are hampering the elections


In 2008 Narottam Mishra’s got a victory in the assembly election in Madhya Pradesh. he was accused for misrepresenting his campaign expense; Election Commission disqualified and barred him from contesting elections for 3 years.  These events happen every time during elections where the information is 'paid' for the benefit. 


On April 11, 2019 The Election Commission found 56 cases of paid news related to the first phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections. Out of these, 53 cases were reported from Telangana and three cases from Jharkhand.


For the next phases, the poll panel had received reports of 36 paid news including 20 from Jammu and Kashmir, and 16 from Chhattisgarh.


What is paid news?

Paid news refers to the news or analysis appearing in any media for the price in cash or any other kind of favour.

Why is the paid news harmful?

 Paid news plays a significant but negative role in the context of free and fair elections. It also involves under-reporting of election expenses by candidates.

Is there any law related to the paid news?
There is no specific law against paid news in India. But the poll panel depends on section 10A of the representation of peoples Act (RPA). It deals with misreporting of funds related to election expenses.

High court views

Delhi high court set aside Mishra’s disqualification and said that the content of a media article or a news features on particular candidates should not be regulated indirectly through Election Commission’s directives. 

It observed that they essentially fall within the domain of free speech. So, this eventually restricts the poll regulator from acting against paid new.
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 Election commission’s demand

The Election Commission suggested the union government that paid news to be made and an electoral offense under the Representation of People Act (RPA).

  A law commission report from 2015 also recommends amending the RPA to this effect. But governments have approached the problem from a press regulation perspective rather than roll regulation.

The earlier government brought the registration of newspapers and publications Bill, 2013.

The present government proposed providing for suspension of publication permits for a period of 45 days for erring publications.

What are the press council moves on this issue?

Press Council of India asked the media to give objective reports about the election and cautioned it against the phenomenon of paid news.

Issuing guidelines for the media, the press council of India (PCI) said the newspaper is not expected to indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate or party during the elections.

It will be the duty of the press to give objective reports about the election and the candidates.

While reporting on the actual campaign, a newspaper may not leave out any important point raised by a candidate and make an attack on his or her opponent.

Print media move

The print media watchdog also cautioned the press to Escher reports which trend to promote feelings or enmity or hatred between people on the grounds of region, religion, race, caste, community or language.
The press should refrain from publishing a false or critical statement in regard to the personal character and conduct or candidature, to prejudice the prospects of that candidate in the election.
The PCI also cautioned against publishing unverified allegation against any candidate or party. The council said whenever the newspapers publish pre-poll surveys, they should take care the preface them conspicuously by indicating the institution which have carried on such surveys, the individuals and originations which have commissioned them, the size and nature of sample detected and the method of selection of the sample for the findings.
The PCI asked the media to guard against paid news which is defined as any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration.

It also urged authorities that rules and orders regulating the entry of the media persons to places of election should be notified and the cut-off date for applying for passes should be given due and advance publicity.

The authorities cannot prohibit the use of vehicles by the media persons for movement during elections although its use for the voters by candidates and their agents is prohibited because the journalist have to move from booth to booth and collect information from all the centers whether on the polling day or at the time of counting.


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