Taking suo moto cognisance of the reported remarks of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot that advertisements will be issued to those newspapers which would give publicity to government schemes, the Press Council of India (PCI) decided to examine in detail the charge that the Rashtradoot newspaper, the third largest circulated daily in the State, was being discriminated against in the issuance of advertisements.
The PCI, in a recent sitting, also considered an internal inquiry committee report on the matter that recommended the Council that it should express extreme displeasure about the statement made by Mr. Gehlot in December 2019. “The Council may observe that in future such statements may be avoided as it may have adverse impact on the print media in general,” the PCI’s order on the matter, said. It added that the PCI accepted and adopted the findings in the report of the inquiry committee and also decided to express its extreme displeasure about the statement in question made by Mr. Gehlot.
The PCI said such a development was likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance. “If such statements are brought into action, it is likely to adversely affect the economic viability of certain newspapers to whom advertisements may not be released because of political considerations and that will cripple their capacity to supply and disseminate news of public interest and importance. The Chief Minister’s statement portrays discriminatory approach and it is in breach of the Model Advertisement Policy Guide -2014 found in the Norms of Journalistic Conduct Edition 2020,” the Order said, countering the State Government’s argument that the PCI had no jurisdiction to intervene in the matter.
The Rajasthan Government has filed its advertisement policy with the PCI, which said the government was not indulging in discrimination and was adhering to that policy. Considering Rashtradoot’s statement to the PCI, the order said prime facie, it indicated that the newspaper was being discriminated against in the issuance of advertisements. “In appropriate matter, we may examine this issue more in detail,” it added.