Political parties tried to manipulate the opinion of the general public with media help: B. Narayanan

Shillong, dec 19: Director General of North East Zone, Ministry of Information and  Broadcasting, Shri B. Narayanan today said that India’s Election Commission is a testament of a well run election management body overseeing electoral processes, while sharing his experience as Election Observerin Karnataka, Oridsa and Madhya Pradesh.

The Director General expressed that various political parties at times had tried to manipulate the opinion of the general public with the help of media but the processes adopted by the Election Commission of India are robust enough to bust those false practices.

The Director General was speaking at a Media Workshop- Vartalap held today in Shillong on the theme ‘Media and Election – Electoral Risk Management and Communication with Media’. Press Information Bureau, Shillong, in cooperation with DIPR Meghalaya and the Shillong Press Club, organised today’s ‘Vartalaap’ in view of the upcoming elections in the State

Speaking on the pressing challenges before the Election Management Bodies in today’s context, Shri Narayanan stressed on the intersection of EMBs functioning with the social media platforms.

He added that social media platforms do self-proclaim that they have content display policies but they also have the “algorithm power” in play. Shri Narayanan added that such a proactive approach to counter fake news will facilitate credible electoral outcomes that will help preserve the ‘freedoms’, which the social media platforms require to thrive.

He also highlighted various emerging challenges in the conduct of elections including manipulation of the information environment. Attempts to spike the flow of information within the media sphere with falsities will get amplified in the days to follow and independent media persons need to keep themselves vigilant about them.

Several concerned citizens’ groups and government machinery are already attempting to do this fact-checking together, with of course, online fact-checking organization and tools that have done a huge service to Indian citizens, especially in turbulent times like the pandemic.

Chief Electoral Officer, Shri F.R Kharkongar during his address said that the Election Commission attaches maximum importance to ensuring conducive environment for free and fair elections in the State.

The CEO elaborated the pro-active role of Media for holding a free and fair election. He said the Election Commission together will try to ensure that a free and fair election is conducted in Meghalaya from a couple of months from now.

He said, “Media are the eyes and ears of the Election Commission and we always believe that it is a force multiplier, it is a catalyst for the delivery of a free and fair election, and it is the endeavour of both media and the Election Commission. The need to project the right narrative is very essential because, elections, he exclaimed are to a large extant a perception game”.

Speaking on the effectiveness of EVMs, ShriKharkongar said that the commission has set ever-higher standards of efficient, smooth and professional conduct of Elections and has been at the forefront of embracing, adopting and implementing the latest technological advancements in improving and fine-tuning the election processes and systems.

Shri Malthus S. Sangma, MCS, Director, IPR Department, Meghalaya acknowledging the pro-active role played by the media said that in today’s politics and society at large, media is essential to the safeguarding transparency of democratic processes. He said, “This is often called its ‘watchdog’ role”.

Transparency is required on many levels including for access to information; accountability and legitimacy of individuals, institutions and processes themselves; and for rightful participation and public debate, he added. Transparency is required for access to information.

It means that an electorate is provided the necessary and comprehensive information so as to make informed choices as well as be able to hold officials and institutions accountable.

He said that an election cannot be deemed democratic unless the public is fully able to participate and is unhindered in exercising choice.  As such, media are vital in ensuring that there is a public, i.e. transparent, platform for debate and participation in the discussion”.

Senior Journalist Shri Anirban Roy gave a detailed presentation on Appreciating the Ethical Use of Digital Tool in info Dissemination, vis a vis Effective Electioneering. He flagged the potential of “fake social media narratives” to affect the free and fair conduct of elections in the world. He said, “The news gathering has become challenging in this digital era.

To compete with rival media organizations and maintain speed, reporters depend heavily on open-source information. Facebook photos & posts, tweets, instagram and whatsapp Group are news gathering sources.

Open source information is not authenticated and those are often wrong or even fake. Often journalists land in trouble for writing information, which may not be 100 percent true.”

Expressing his concern over the prevailing trend Shri Roy exalted that it is high time journalists should now learn to face and handle the Disinformation War in large democracies like India, especially during the elections.

Multi-tasking Journalists covering elections will need to add another feather on their hat – Digital Forensics, he added. The journalists should learn to identify fake photos and videos; identify fake tweets. He also gave examples of many online tools through which fact-checking can be done very easily.

ShriBikash Singh, Correspondent from Economic Times touched on the subject – the economics behind election. He elaborated on the various provisions laid down by the Election Commission for tackling the negative effects of money power during the time of elections. He also said that some parties keep on demanding to increase existing expenditure limit citing inflation as the reason.

He also said that it is worth looking at Indian election economics not just at the macro level, or in terms of the “white” and “black” economies, but also further down the chain, all the way from the impact on elections on specific sectors to election windfalls for individual voters and households.

He said holding elections put tremendous pressure on the public exchequer but one cannot deny the need to engage all the machinery of the government to ensure free, fair and inclusive election. He also said that people’s faith in the results of elections is the most fundamental precept of a healthy democracy.

He further said that the role, framework and capacity of Election Management Bodies are the core building block for ‘elections integrity’ as it covers both the foundational and the functional aspects of any electoral democracy.

At the start of the programme, Shri David Laithphlang, President Shillong Press Club set the tone of the workshop by saying that Journalists play a significant role in disseminating credible and balanced information that assist and empower the masses to make well-informed decisions during elections.

Therefore, it is important to emphasize on their role to further encourage participation in the electoral process, he said. Media persons from Shillong and Nongpoh participated the Vartalap.






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