Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Monday warned mediapersons, candidates and the election authorities of strong action if they indulged in “paid news,” which was a blot on democracy.

In a statement, he said he had been receiving complaints from several quarters that in the ongoing elections in five States — Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Goa — the malpractice of paid news was widespread. “This is a threat to free and fair elections, and it undermines the foundation of democracy and shakes the people's faith in the media.” This malpractice would subvert parliamentary democracy unless ruthlessly stamped out.

The Council was happy that the Election Commission had already set up Media Monitoring Committees district-wise, he said. He urged those committees to keep a strict watch on suspected cases of paid news and report to the EC authorities concerned as well as to the Council.

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