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Report No. 255

(iii) Guidelines for determining paid news

Election Commission of Guidelines

7.33.1. The ECI issued a circular dated August 27, 2012 that comprised a comprehensive set of guidelines on paid news. They were further incorporated in the Handbook for Media for the Lok Sabha General Elections, 2014.

The ECI proposed an amendment to the RP Act to provide that publishing and abetting the publication 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 III of Part VII of the Act with a punishment of a minimum of two years imprisonment.282 In order to determine what constitutes paid news, the following guidelines ought to be kept in mind:

282. Handbook for Media, General Election to the 16th Lok Sabha, 2014, Election Commission of India, para 3.5

1. Identical articles with photographs and headlines appearing in competing publications carrying by-lines of different authors around the same time;

2. On the same page of specific newspapers, articles praising competing candidates, claiming that both are likely to win the same elections;

3. News item stating that one candidate is getting the support of each and every section of the society and that he would win elections from the constituency;

4. News items favouring a candidate and not carrying any by-line;

5. Newspaper publishing a banner headline stating that a party/candidate is ready to create history in the state/constituency but not carrying any news item related to this headline;

6. News item saying the good work done by a Party/Candidate had marginalized the electoral prospects of the other party/candidate in the state with each and every sentence of the news item in favour of the party/candidate;

7. There are instances of fixed size news items, each say a length of 125-150 words with a double column photo. News items are seldom written in such a rigid format and size whereas more often advertisements are;

8. In specific newspapers, multiple font types and multiple drop case styles are noticed within the same page of a single newspaper. This happens because, from the layouts to the fonts and photographs, everything is provided by the candidate who has paid for the slots in the newspaper;

9. Besides these, the cases decided as Paid News by the ECI and also by the PCI can provide guidance to District Complaint Monitoring Centre to decide future cases.

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