Editors Guild condemns paid news practice

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New Delhi, Dec 23 (ANI): The Editors Guild on Tuesday strongly condemned the practice of 'paid news' being followed by some media houses in the country and called upon editors in the country to desist from publishing any form of advertisement which masquerades as news.

Many members of the Guild, during its annual general body meeting, have expressed deep shock and serious concern over the reports of 'paid news.'

"The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked and seriously concerned at the increasing number of reports detailing the pernicious practice of publishing "paid news'" by some newspapers and television channels, especially during recent elections," the Editors' Guild stated.

"The Guild, ...has strongly condemned this practice which whittles the foundations of Indian journalism and calls upon all editors in the country to desist from publishing any form of advertisement which masquerade as news," it further stated.

The Guild also stated that "it had always stood for publication of news which is in public interest. News which has been gathered due to the professional efforts of journalists; and news which is not influenced by malice, bias, favouritism or monetary influence."

Earlier this month after the Maharashtra assembly elections senior journalist P. Sainath wrote an investigative article in The Hindu exposing how some media houses were superseded by people in power.

A series of research articles followed after this, which includes another senior journalist Vinod Mehta literally appealing 'do not sell Journalism'.

Many people within and outside media expressed shock over not describing paid news and news which is of public interest.

The Guild recognised that news media in print and electronic form has a genuine right to publish and broadcast advertisements on all issues, subject to the voluntary Advertising Standards Council code and the News Broadcasting Standards Code.

"It is imperative that news organisations have to clearly distinguish between news and advertisements with full and proper disclosure norms, so that no reader and viewer is tricked by any subterfuge of advertisements published and broadcast in the same format, language and style of news," the Guild stated.

The Guild said that it is disturbing that this 'paid news' practice is also being used by companies, organisations and individuals, apart from political parties.

The Guild further deplored the practice of "private treaties" where news organisations accept free equity in unlisted companies in lieu of promoting these companies through news columns and television news programmes, the Guild stated through a release.

"The news organisations should disclose their commercial and equity interests in such companies to the readers and viewers in a transparent manner," the statement added.

The Guild decried the unsavoury and unacceptable practice of some political parties and candidates offering payment for "news packages" to news media and its representatives to publish and telecast eulogising and misleading news reports on the political parties.

"Both the media organisations and editors who indulge in it, and the customers who offer payment for such "paid news" are guilty of undermining the free and fair press, for which every citizen of India is entitled to. Such irresponsible acts by a few media organisations and journalists is discrediting the entire media of the country, which has a glorious tradition of safeguarding democratic rights and exposing all kinds of injustices and inequities," the Guild said.

It further stated that "Editors and journalists have been at the vanguard of the movement for creation of a just society, both during the days of colonial rule and Independent India. The ugly phenomenon of "paid news" will be a blot on the country's democratic fabric."

The Guild called upon publishers, editors and journalists of media organisations to unitedly fight the creeping menace of commercialisation and bartering of self-respect of the media.

In the coming months, the Guild has decided to join hands with other media organisations to sensitise the media and civil society, including political parties and the Election Commission, on the need to eliminate this unacceptable practice.

The Guild said that it would be shortly unveiling an initiative to encourage transparency regarding "paid news" and "private treaties and appealed to all stakeholders to join in pushing for a clean, transparent media. (ANI)

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