The South Asia Media Commission has joined the brigade criticising Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju's demand to arm the government with “draconian” powers over the news media and his dismissal of attempts at self-regulation.

The Commission, which audits media content and monitors journalists' safety and freedom, admits that self-regulation has made a modest start, but accuses the Press Council of hindering such efforts. A statement issued by Commission president K.K. Katyal points out that the Press Council had “developed cold feet under the pressure of vested interests,” with regard to the publication of a report naming newspapers accused of indulging in paid news.

“Instead of running down the self-regulatory mechanism, as has been done by Justice Katju, the Press Council will do well to offer constructive suggestions to strengthen it,” said the statement.

The Media Commission also highlighted “the dangers of the proposals of penal action against “defaulting media,” through imposition of fines and withholding the government advertisements.” Several States had taken such steps in the past, with the Central government also recently directing PSUs to stop advertisements to newspapers in Jammu & Kashmir.

“The media all along has been opposed to this practice. It is, therefore, surprising that such anti-media proposals are sought to be revived,” it said.

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