media affects the health of democracy'
Either we finish paid news, or paid news finishes us:
The “paid news syndrome” in the media should be resisted
as part of a larger struggle for democratic rights because corruption in the
media directly affects the health of democracy. The struggle has to be waged
in the context of media's corporatisation, monopolistic trends and
These views emerged at a day-long seminar on “Abridging Freedom and Fairness
of the Media: Combating Challenges,” organised by the Rajasthan Working
Journalists' Union, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the
Human Rights Law Network here on Sunday.
Delivering the keynote address, P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu,
said the paid news scandal, unearthed during the Assembly elections in
Maharashtra last year, had exposed a full-fledged industry that was out to
integrate journalism into it, blowing apart all values, principles and
ethics of news writing.
“For the corporate world, everything including the news is a commodity. With
newspaper space purchased for publicity in the garb of news, politicians
break the electoral expenditure limit without inviting action, and the media
evade tax and develop a political clout,” Mr. Sainath said.
He regretted that even as statutory bodies, such as the Press Council of
India (PCI) and the Election Commission, had initiated a probe into the
scandal, the mainstream media was still silent on the issue. “This is [a
matter of] shame. It exposes the corporate media which has blacked out the
Even as the media had “structural compulsions to lie” because of heavy
investments made by them in the market, the Election Commission had created
a paid news and money power division and the Central Board of Direct Taxes
had deputed a senior officer to look into the matter, he said. The
Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is also closely monitoring the
“The choice is clear. Either we finish paid news, or paid news finishes us,”
said the journalist, making a reference to the PCI “suppressing” a 72-page
report of a two-member sub-committee on the subject identifying the
perpetrators of the crime. Mr. Sainath said the PCI, as the moral guardian
of journalism, was expected to take a bold stand on the issue.
He said while the media's independence was at stake in the country, the
suicide of 2 lakh farmers in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya
Pradesh and Chhattisgarh between 1997 and 2008 had received very little
coverage in the mainstream media. “Evidently, the media universe has
changed,” he observed.
Emphasising that a “very painful struggle” lies ahead, Mr. Sainath called
for steps going beyond self-regulation, such as anti-monopoly legislation,
mandatory SEBI guidelines and democratisation of media. He also sought
citizens' support to the progressive sections of media and creation of an
increased public space in the media.
Speakers in other sessions highlighted instances of attempts to curb freedom
of expression, the state and big business interests exploiting the media,
extremist groups silencing the voice of criticism and curbs imposed by the
media houses on the professional life of their staffers.
The sessions were devoted to the subjects such as “Muzzling of Media by the
State and the Mob,” “Perils of Being a Stringer,” “Media Corporatised and
Compromised,” and “Contempt of Court and Disclosure of Sources.”
Rajasthan High Court judge R.S. Chauhan, PUCL State president Prem Krishna
Sharma, Indian Federation of Working Journalists vice-president Praveen
Chandra Chhabra, High Court lawyer S.R. Bajwa, BBC's Narain Barhat, Dainik
Bhaskar's Giriraj Agrawal and The Hindu's Sunny Sebastian addressed the
Please read our earlier stories related to" Paid
News" &'‘Private Treaties’'
1).Paid News: A Cancer
Paid news: Press Council's sham report to
hide Indian media's shame.
3).Paid news undermining democracy:
Press Council report
an electoral malpractice, demands political parties.
5).‘Paid News’ issue raised in Rajya Sabha under Calling
6)."Paid news" culture is only a symptom of a
deeper disease says,
chairperson Mrinal Pandey.
7).Editors Guild condemns paid news
news turned media into a 'lap dog'?
News" Scandal Blotted Out by Press Lords.
harm fair, unbiased news: SEBI.
11).'Paid news' a major threat to
electoral democracy: P.Sainath
12).Press Release of SEBI Regarding
Mandatory disclosures by the media of its stake in
13).Corporatisation to blame for paid
chairman G.N. Ray
"Paid News" Scandal Blotted Out by Press Lord
15).Ending 'Paid News':its time to Act
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