PCI takes serious note of paid news

The Press Council of India (PCI) on Monday took serious note of the initial reports about large scale practice of paid news during the elections in Gujarat, saying it will take the matter before the Election Commission requesting them to cancel the election of candidates involved.

The matter has been brought to the notice of the council by a four member fact-finding team set up by the PCI chief Justice Markandey Katju to ascertain instances of paid news in Gujarat which witnessed the final phase of voting on Monday.

“I have been informed by Rajeev Ranjan Nag, member PCI and convenor of the team I appointed for looking into complaints of paid news and violation of Press freedom during Gujarat elections, that large scale practice of paid news has come to their notice,” the PCI chairman said in a statement.

The team informed Katju that both the print and the electronic media indulged in paid news in the poll bound state.

“This is indeed shocking and very disturbing as it is a blow to democracy in the country. Certain politicians seem to be making a mockery of the purity of elections, and in their desire to get elected are prepared to go to any extent,” the PCI chief observed. He said the team was in the process of preparing a final report.

“After receiving the full report, I shall inform the Election Commission as well as the general public and concerned authorities and request them to cancel the election of candidates who indulged in paid news, as was done in the case of an elected candidate in the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections,” he added.

Katju also used the opportunity to raise a strong pitch for his long standing demand to bring the electronic media under the ambit of the PCI and for more powers to be vested in the commission to regulate them. “This also vindicates my plea for effective media regulation and punitive powers in the proposed Media Council for taking action against the delinquent media. Self regulation has proved to be ineffective, and the recent Gujarat elections is the latest example of the malaise in a large section of the media, and it is not just an aberration,” the PCI chairman said.

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