Editors Guild of India has passed a resolution to fight against the harmful practices of publishing paid news by some newspapers and television channels. For this, it has announced the formation of an ethics committee, to be headed by TN Ninan, editor in chief, Business Standard.
The Editors Guild called the phenomenon a 'blot on the country's democratic fabric' and said, "It is imperative that news organisations clearly distinguish between news and advertisements, with full and proper disclosure norms so that no reader or viewer is tricked by any subterfuge of advertisements published and broadcast in the same format, language and style of news."
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"It is disturbing that this paid news practice is also being used by companies, organisations and individuals, apart from political parties," the guild said in an official communiqué.
At its annual general meeting, the guild condemned 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. It suggested that the news organisations disclose their commercial and equity interests in such companies to the readers and viewers in a transparent manner.
"Both the media organisations and the editors who indulge in it, and the customers who offer payment for such 'paid news' are guilty of undermining the free and fair press, which every citizen of India is entitled to," the statement added.
In the coming months, the guild, along with other media organisations, will work towards sensitising the media and civil society, including political parties and the Election Commission, on the need to eliminate this unacceptable practice.
Incidentally, Coomi Kapoor, veteran journalist and columnist with Indian Express, has been elected the general secretary of Editors Guild. She succeeds K Sachidananda Murthy, resident editor, Delhi, The Week.
Established in 1977 just after the Emergency, the guild comprises nearly 200 members from national, regional and local newspapers, magazines and electronic media.