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766 complaints of paid news received in Jan-March polls: Quraishi

Friday July 06, 2012 06:36:28 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The Election Commission received a staggering 766 complaints of paid news during the January-March assembly elections, of which 253 were found to be true, the poll panel's former head S.Y. Quraishi said here Friday.

Speaking at a seminar on "Challenges Facing the Media" at the India International Centre here, Quraishi said notice had been issued in 581 cases and in 253 cases the parties concerned admitted to paying for certain news to be published. This amount was then added to their poll expenses.

In the 2011 assembly polls, the Election Commission had taken action in 250 cases, while in the 2010 Bihar polls, it had "caught 121 cases", he said.

"The parties confessed they had paid, and the money was accounted for in their expenses," he added.

The former chief election commissioner said not many cases were reported from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as many political parties had their own media outlets and used these for poll propaganda.

In the Representation of People Act, paid news has been made a cognizable offence as it can be prejudicial and affect the prospects of the candidate, he added.

Quraishi said political leaders have also spoken of how they are approached by the media, demanding money in exchange for publishing news in their favour.

"The political leaders say they are approached by the media and told, 'Give me Rs.10 lakh and we will promote you, and if you don't we will demolish you or blank you out.' During campaigning for polls, the parties fall in line as they can't afford to be blanked out," the former poll panel chief said. He added that there was "total unanimity among political parties" on the harassment due to this.

While exit polls are banned till the day of the results, Quraishi called for opinion polls also to be banned in the run-up to the polls, saying these are "manufactured".

He praised the media for being the "eyes and ears" of the poll panel as the Election Commission took note of all the violations of the model code of conduct highlighted by the media and took action.

While the media is very powerful, it also needs to exert more self-control, he added.

Quraishi said the Election Commission was issuing new guidelines on poll expenses, fixing the limit at Rs.16 lakh.





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