Paid News Syndrome
In the last Parliamentary election media in general and print media, in particular, has indulged in nefarious monetary deals with some politicians and candidates by agreeing to publish only their views not as advertisements but as news items and not to publish the viewpoints of other candidates and even publish news items against rival candidates as desired by the other party in exchange of a specified amount of money.
This paid news syndrome was so rampant that voices of concern were raised by members of various journalists’ unions and also members of civil society and eminent media personalities. Shortly after the election, the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists in the association of others held a seminar in this very Jubilee Hall to express their concern about this malpractice. Similar seminars were organized in other parts of the country.
A committee has been set up by the Press Council of India to collect inputs from various parts of the country and make an in-depth study of the malady of paid news syndrome in elections and to make its recommendation to the Press Council.
Newspapers enjoy the freedom of speech and expression as the watchdog of the nation and as a representative voice of the people with a solemn duty to inform the people and the government correctly and dispassionately.
They do not enjoy the freedom of speech and expression to misinform and give distorted news and project views of a particular party or group in the guise of news for monetary consideration. Of late, trial by media of sub judice matters and incorrect reporting of court proceedings have become a disturbing phenomenon.
Earlier, the editor used to control the contents of the newspaper, including the advertisements. Today, the office of the editor has been marginalized and the editor has very little or no say about the contents of the newspaper. It is the manager or director in- charge of advertisement who decides what space is to be left for contents to be published other than advertisements or write-ups desired by the advertisers and corporate sector.