The ‘paid news' phenomenon is an assault on the people's right to honest
information and a major threat to electoral democracy, P. Sainath, Rural
Affairs Editor, The Hindu, said here(TVM) on
Delivering the keynote address at a seminar on ‘Paid News: A Threat to Media
Ethics,' organised by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Mr.
Sainath came down heavily on the Press Council of India for its failure to
publish the report of the two-member sub-committee on ‘paid news.' He said
it was a clear case of the representatives of media owners having succeeded
in getting the Press Council to virtually shelve the report on specious
grounds. “At a time when journalists across the country are using the Right
to Information Act to access information, the Press Council of India is
suppressing its own report,” he said.
Sainath pointed out that the report was being suppressed despite every major
political party in Parliament demanding that it should be tabled in the
House. The government too appeared to be in favour of such a step, but the
matter had been left hanging as there were doubts about the exact legal
position given the Press Council's autonomous status.
Council itself was not saying that it was killing the report. Its plea was
that it was archiving it, which meant that anyone who wished to see the
report must approach the Press Council every time they wanted to do so, he
Sainath said the ‘paid news' phenomenon was inseparable from money power and
the clout that media monopolies wielded. It also had a lot to do with the
global economic recession and the consequent fall in the advertisement
revenue of the media houses that had indulged in the practice of publishing
news for money.
fraternity in the country had the duty to resist such practices because it
was a question of survival of ethical journalism, media democracy and
electoral democracy, he said.
the coverage of the alleged corruption in work relating to the Commonwealth
Games, Mr. Sainath said, while the media had done an excellent job by
exposing corruption, their silence about the much bigger corruption relating
to the Indian Premier League (IPL) was quite distressing. The media had
chosen to overlook the IPL-related corruption only because they stood to
benefit from the huge advertisement revenue from the IPL, he said.