Kolkata: Like in other states, the Election Commission (EC) will organise a workshop in West Bengal for mediapersons ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to reach its directives upto the grassroot level and prevent electoral malpractices.

“For the first time, such a nationwide drive has been undertaken by the EC to prevent electoral malpractices, educate the media in particular and help its directives percolate upto grassroot level to ensure free and fair poll,” state’s Assistant Chief Electoral Officer Amit Jyoti Bhattacharya told PTI.

The workshop would be held here on March 4 in collaboration with the state Information and Cultural Affairs Department and the Press Information Bureau (PIB), Bhattacharya said.

West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sunil Gupta said that the day-long deliberation and interaction would go into the details of the entire election process “to ensure how we can make it free, fair and incident-free.”

Similar workshops had already been conducted by the EC for nine recognised political parties in the state, he said.

“Besides paid news, the workshop will deal with subjects like media monitoring operations, certification committees, Model Code of Conduct and Sections of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 that deals with restrictions on publishing election-related news,” Bhattacharya said.

On behalf of the EC, the state Inormation and Cultural Affairs department would invite two journalists each from all media houses, who are accredited to the state government, for participating in the day-long session, he said.

The media houses should impose self-regulation on themselves and exercise caution while publishing the news related to elections, the Commission sources said.

Noting that “print and electronic media are eyes and ears on the ground” to the Commission, they said that the EC would take suo motu complaint based on media reports about violation of Model Code of Conduct during the election process and initiate action against the erring political parties.

Terming ‘money power’ to influence voters as a barrier for conducting free and fair elections, the sources said that spending unaccounted money through paid news by political parities was not a healthy trend either for political parties, governments or the economy.

Media should follow Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 that “prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.”

The EC will also set up state and district level media certification and monitoring committees (MCMC) to check instances of paid news ahead of the upcoming polls.

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