‘Paid news’ rampant in Gujarat polls: PCI

There has been large-scale practice of "paid news" in the Gujarat elections, a fact-finding team of the Press Council of India has claimed.

Calling the prevalence of paid news as "shocking and very disturbing", PCI chairperson Justice Markandey Katju said the information provided by the panel appointed by him only shows that self-regulation by media was proving to be ineffective.

"I have been informed today by Rajeev Ranjan Nag, member of Press Council of India and convener of the team I appointed for looking into complaints of paid news and violation of press freedom in the Gujarat elections, that large-scale practice of paid news in the recent Gujarat elections has come to the notice of the fact-finding team," Katju said in a statement here.

"I am informed that not only the print media but even the visual media (TV channels) indulged in large-scale practice of paid news in the Gujarat elections."

Katju said the full report on paid news in Gujarat elections was still being prepared and he planned to take it to the Election Commission, public and other authorities after it was submitted and seek action against erring politicians.

He said he would request that the election of candidates who indulged in paid news and violation of press freedom should be cancelled, as was done in the case of an elected candidate in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections.

The PCI chief said the findings of the panel supported his argument that punitive powers were needed for the regulation of media.

"This also vindicates my plea for effective media regulation and punitive powers in the proposed Media Council for taking action against the delinquent media," Katju said.

"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 statement said.

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