SRINAGAR: At least six cases of paid news were reported from Jammu during 2014 Lok Sabha polls, officials revealed Thursday.
The cases were reported from the Jammu parliamentary constituency, and the Election Commission of India (ECI), in response, “counted the amount spent (on buying the news space) as election expenditure of the candidates,” Deputy Chief Electoral Officer (DCEO) Yashpal Singh told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
“The cases were reported by our district committee. We considered the ‘news items’ as advertisements and counted the amount spent on it as part of the candidates’ election expenditure using the DAVP rate system,” Singh said.
He revealed the information at a workshop held to “sensitise media on some points” including the paid news phenomenon. Both Singh and the state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula, who was part of the activity, however refused to reveal names of the newspapers and the candidates involved.
Paid news, as defined by Press Council of India, is “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print or electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration.”
According to ECI, the phenomenon of paid news has “assumed alarming proportion as a serious electoral malpractice”.
After June 2010, ECI issued instructions to state and district officers to “scrutinise, identify and report cases of paid news through a carefully laid out mechanism and process”.
In the upcoming Assembly elections, the ECI would scrutinise all newspapers in the state for paid news, Narula said.
“We will have district committees monitoring the newspapers in all districts. And action will be taken against any candidate found involved in buying the space or columns in the newspapers,” he said.
“We will closely monitor the cable television as well,” he added, stating that paid news phenomenon was less prevalent in J&K as compared to other states “wherefrom hundreds of complaints are received” during elections.
As per the ECI’s standing guidelines, the political parties or candidates are required to get “pre-certification” of their advertisements meant for electronic media.
“Any advertisement meant for television or radio must be verified by the designated authorities before it can be aired,” he said.
Meanwhile, to discourage hate speeches, the ECI will videograph the candidates’ election speeches in the communally sensitive areas of the state.
“The speeches will be videographed and analysed regularly so as to prevent candidates from making hate speeches. Any candidate found involved in any kind of misconduct will be acted against,” the CEO said.
He said the ECI has set up a form submission facility at Chandigarh for the migrant voters of Kashmir Valley.
“Earlier the migrants could register at Jammu, Udhampur, and Delhi only, but now they can submit forms for registration at Chandigarh as well. The in-place process of registration will be followed strictly,” Narula added.