Members across the political spectrum expressed concern in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday over attempts by the Press Council of India to “suppress vital information” on “paid news,” and demanded that the government intervene and make public the report of the PCI sub-committee.
Raising the issue during zero hour, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Brinda Karat said the 72-page report was not being made public, and the names of big media houses, which were guilty of paid news were removed from it.
She sought to know why the media wanted to remain silent and “if the watchdog is reduced to being a lapdog of the corporate.”
The PCI Chairman, who had set up the two-member committee, not only diluted its report but also not even placed it on the council website, Ms. Karat said.
The report, she said, talked about the practice of news space being sold and named the guilty; mentioned about private treaties between media houses and corporate houses in which space was exchanged for company shares; and issues connected with working journalists since many senior journalists were now on a contract and denied a role in curbing this problem.
As the PCI was created by an Act of Parliament, it was accountable to the House, Ms. Karat said.
The BJP's S.S. Ahluwalia demanded that the unedited version of the committee report be tabled in Parliament. Veteran journalist H.K. Dua (nominated) felt that the PCI should not be a party to the report not being made public. It should be placed on the PCI website.
Many members from all sides raised their hands, indicating that they associated themselves with the views expressed on the issue. Noticing the broad support, the Chair observed that entire House associated itself with the views of the members.