In what seems to be its first action in a case of paid news, the Press Council of India has found two newspapers, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran, guilty of publishing advertisements masquerading as news before the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The case has been sent to the Election Commission for further action.
These newspapers published a one-sided news item in the form of an advertisement in favour of an opposition candidate of the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal. The complaint was filed by the former MLA Yogender Kumar.
At its March 31 meeting, the Council said the format of the item was such that it would appear as a news report to the layman and the word “ADVT” was printed at the lowest end, and it appeared to accompany a small boxed appeal by the candidate. “There was beyond doubt a possibility of confusing the voters when the elections were just a day away and all campaigning had stopped,” said the Council in a statement on Thursday. It added that the act was not only unethical by journalistic standards but also violated election laws.
The Council's decision, along with all the case papers, is being sent to the Election Commission.