‘Paid news is about candidates... watching their expenses’

Anita Karwal

How is 2012 different from 2007?

It is different in terms of media certification, expenditure guidelines, expenditure monitoring guidelines. Also, revision of rolls was totally technology-based, the first election where it has been done real-time. The roll revision was based on a house-to-house verification process.

Can you elaborate on media certification?

When political parties want to put an ad or a jingle or a rap on TV, radio and cinema, they have to get it certified by my media committee. This is a Supreme Court decision. It looks into whether there is any violation in terms of provocation, or a personal attack. Those things we ask them to modify. When they do, we pass the ad... The media certification and monitoring committee (is) headed by the additional CEO. It monitors paid news.

Will paid news be acted on suo motu or based on complaints?

It can be suo motu and it can be based on complaints. We have a system in all districts, officials who are checking newspapers, looking at television, listening to radio.

How do they decide it is paid news?

This will be our first experience, so it is very difficult to say. But in UP (121 cases filed), the cases were typical. They used the same words, the same news with a photograph of the candidate appeared in different papers... except for the headline changing slightly.

There has been no case in Gujarat?

Paid news is about candidates. The candidate has a limit on expenditure, Rs 16 lakh. The party does not have that. So it is the candidate's expenditure we are watching closely. If we catch something, we check if he has put it in the accounts. If not, we give him a notice.

But he can put it in his account and have something published. Then, is it not an offence?

... contd.

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