Here is all you need to know about Paid News menace
New Delhi, April 27: As Indians are in the process of electing a new government, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is keeping a close watch on the menace of paid news not only in print and electronic media but also on social media.
Paid News has been defined by the Press Council of India (PCI) as "Any news or analysis appearing in any media (Print & Electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration".
PCI guidelines about election news and advertising say that news should be clearly demarcated from advertisements by printing disclaimers, should be strictly enforced by all publications. As far as news is concerned, it must always carry a credit line and should be set in a typeface that would distinguish it from advertisements.
It is notable that lawyer Sagar Suryavanshi has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court that demands the ECI should not allow any person, whether politician or not, to post political or election related advertisements or paid political content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, 48 hours before the polling day.
While hearing the PIL, the division bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil, on January 31 had cautioned the ECI against taking the issue of paid political content on social media "lightly".
The court had also pulled up the ECI after its officer did not appear during the hearing and said if the ECI officer fails to remain present at the next hearing too, the court would issue a warrant against the officer.
On February 25, the ECI issued guidelines to reconstitute Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs) at district and state level with the inclusion of an Intermediary expert (intermediary as defined in section 2(w) of IT Act, 2000)/social media expert.
These district and state level MCMCs includes senior government officials as well as independent citizen or a journalist recommended by the PCI.
These MCMCs monitor media for paid news and other violations besides certification of advertisements.
A paid news case is confirmed when it goes through a lengthy process as the candidates or the media houses are given a chance to appeal.
Any appeal against the decision of District level MCMC in matter of Paid News will be made to State level MCMC and any appeal against the decision of State level MCMC will be made to the Election Commission of India. The State level MCMC can also make a reference to the Commission for advice, if it deems it necessary. Wherever complaints on Paid News cases are made to the Commission directly, the Commission shall forward cases to the State level MCMC for initial consideration.
Weekly report on Paid News is to be submitted by CEO to ECI and copies of notices on Paid News are displayed on Notice Board of RO and DEO's website.
Paid News cases related to Print Media are sent by ECI to PCI and those related to Electronic Media are referred to NBSA. The names of concerned candidates are put on the website of Chief Electoral Officers of respective states.
Wherever complaints on paid news cases are made to the ECI directly, it shall forward cases to the State level MCMC for initial consideration.
MCMCs have been given the responsibility to track Paid News and deal with it. According to this, in cases finally decided by District MCMC as paid news, it will inform the Expenditure Observer and accounting team for calculating the expenditure on Paid News at DIPR rate, (in absence of DIPR rate, DAVP rate shall be used) and further necessary action will be taken. The ECI has proposed an amendment in the RP Act, 1951, to provide therein that publishing and a betting the publishing of 'paid news' for furthering the prospect of election of any candidate or for prejudicially affecting the prospect of election of any candidate be made an electoral offence under chapter-ill of Part-VII of RP Act, 1951, with punishment of a minimum of two years imprisonment.