December 17, 2012
I have been informed today by Shri Rajeev Ranjan Nag, Member, 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 election, that large scale practice of paid news in the recent Gujarat elections has come to the notice of the fact finding team.
The full report about this is still being prepared and shall be submitted to me shortly, but 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.
This is indeed shocking and very disturbing as it is a heavy 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.
After I receive the full report of the fact finding team I shall inform the Election Commission of India about it (as well as the general public and concerned authorities) and request that elections of candidates who indulged in paid news and violation of press freedom in the recent election should be cancelled, as was done in the case of an elected candidate in the recent U.P Legislative Assembly Elections.
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.
(Justice Markandey Katju)
Chairman, Press Council of India