Kolkata: Following the Bihar model, the
Election Commission has decided to set up district-level media
certification and monitoring committees in West Bengal to
check instances of paid news ahead of the state Assembly polls.
"Each MCMC would be headed by a representative of the
District Electoral Office. They would work 24x7 to monitor
instances of paid news," Akshay Rout, a director general of
the Election Commission, told newsmen.
Stating that the EC had taken the paid news phenomenon
very seriously, he pointed out that more than 100 notices have
been issued to candidates during the Bihar elections for their
involvement in paid news instances.
"After receiving the notices, a number of candidates
admitted their involvement and agreed to include the expenses
in their election expenses account," he said, adding that the
EC was also looking at further steps to check the phenomenon.
He said the EC was also very concerned that paid news
gave a candidate an undue advantage over his poll rivals and
also violated the Right to Information Act.
Asked if the EC was contemplating formulating a code
of conduct for the media in connection with the paid news
phenomenon, Rout said national and regional political parties
had suggested such a code during a meeting with the Chief
Election Commissioner on March 9 in Delhi.
"The Election Commission has taken the request on
board," he said adding, however, that no guideline would be
complete without self-restraint by both the media and the
Earlier, replying to a question during a consultation
with the media to sensitise them on paid news, Rout said that
in its endeavour to check paid news, the EC had no intention
of imposing press censorship.
Rout also held consultations with the NGOs and
organisations like the NCC to seek their help in educating the
voters and ensuring their full participation.
He also reviewed with Chief Electoral Officer Sunil
Gupta the recent `Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and
Participation` survey of voters commissioned by the EC.
According to sources in the CEO`s office, the EC would
use the findings of the survey to draw up an intervention
strategy to educate the voters and ensure better