S M Fasiullah for BeyondHeadlines
As the General Elections approaching in the country, the issue of ‘paid news’ has been taken up with The Press Council of India (PCI) by RTI Activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal.
Mr. Agrawal sought information from PCI about paid news, private treaties between media groups and other parties, and complaints about both the subjects.
In its response, PCI noted that paid news “destroys the very essence of the democracy” and “undermines free and fair elections” in the country.
While stating its own limitations in dealing with these ill practices with iron fist, PCI proposed to term paid news practice an “electoral-malpractice” and make it a punishable offence.
PCI has closed complaints regarding ‘paid news’ because of ‘non-pursuance’, whereas some cases of misleading advertisements were closed after ‘settlement’.
However, Mr. Agrawal pointed out that the closure of cases due to ‘non-pursuance’ or ‘settlement’ can be result of still “dangerous practice of unethical blackmail-compromise” amid the complainant and the affected media house.
“Press Council must not close cases once filed with it because of non-pursuance or settlement. Blackmailers unnecessarily harassing media should be booked under some criminal offence in case their complaints are found baseless and frivolous,” stated Mr. Agrawal.
“While press Council Chairperson dragging himself into jobs not assigned to him like launching pardon-campaigns for selected individuals, RTI response reveals that Press Council has failed in its duty to take cognizance of dragging media in unnecessarily legal-tangle depriving TV-viewers from telecast of eye-opener true episode of ‘Teachers Recruitment Scam’ in Haryana during regime of Om Prakash Chautala as Chief Minister.”