New Delhi, March 5 :
The Election Commission has sought the support of media houses to ensure that the coming Lok Sabha polls remain free of “paid news”, that is promotional material being passed off as news.
In a letter to the editors-in-chief of all media organisations, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) V.S. Sampath said: “I solicit your active cooperation in ensuring that this milestone in the history of India’s democracy becomes what we jointly wish it to be: free fair, peaceful, transparent and participative.”
“Fair elections are about ensuring level playing field and keeping out undue influence,” the letter said.
He said the commission has taken some well considered steps to deal with the menace of paid news in elections, after persistent requests were received from media delegations and other sections of society.
“These will remain in force as will other laws, instructions and certain regulatory mechanisms which aim at ensuring that political parties and candidates do not make use of media in a manner that could vitiate the election process,” the letter said.
“We are seeking to bring these out in the form of a handbook soon. However, knowing the immense capacity for self-discipline of the media, the commission feels that with some personal attention from you (the editor), there will be no scope for complaint,” it added.
Sampath also asked the media houses to ensure that guidelines of the Press Council of India are followed in this regard.
He said media in its various formats is perhaps the most prominent source of influence for citizens.
“Election Commission believes that opinion leader like you (the editor) could lead the efforts for protecting the precious level playing field during the din and bustle of election campaign,” he said.