The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked and seriously concerned at the increasing number of reports detailing the pernicious practice of publishing “paid news'” by some newspapers and television channels, especially during recent elections. The Guild, at its Annual General Meeting held on December 22, 2009 has strongly condemned this practice which whittles the foundations of Indian journalism and calls upon all editors in the country to desist from publishing any form of advertisement which masquerade as news.
The Guild noted that it had always stood for publication of news which is in public interest; news which has been gathered due to the professional efforts of journalists; and news which is not influenced by malice, bias, favouritism or monetary influence. The Guild recognises that news media in print and electronic form, has a genuine right to publish and broadcast advertisements on all issues, subject to the voluntary Advertising Standards Council code and the News Broadcasting Standards Code.
It is imperative that news organisations have to clearly distinguish between news and advertisements with full and proper disclosure norms, so that no reader and viewer is tricked by any subterfuge of advertisements published and broadcast in the same format, language and style of news. It is disturbing that this “paid news” practice is also being used by companies, organisations and individuals, apart from political parties.
The Guild further deplores the practice of “private treaties” where news organisations accept free equity in unlisted companies in lieu of promoting these companies through news columns and television news programmes. The news organisations should disclose their commercial and equity interests in such companies to the readers and viewers in a transparent manner.
The Guild decries the unsavoury and unacceptable practice of some political parties and candidates offering payment for “news packages” to news media and its representatives to publish and telecast eulogising and misleading news reports on the political parties. Both the media organisations and editors who indulge in it, and the customers who offer payment for such “paid news” are guilty of undermining the free and fair press, for which every citizen of India is entitled to. Such irresponsible acts by a few media organisations and journalists is discrediting the entire media of the country, which has a glorious tradition of safeguarding democratic rights and exposing all kinds of injustices and inequities. Editors and journalists have been at the vanguard of the movement for creation of a just society, both during the days of colonial rule and Independent India. The ugly phenomenon of “paid news” will be a blot on the country's democratic fabric.
The Guild calls upon publishers, editors and journalists of media organisations to unitedly fight this creeping menace of commercialisation and bartering of self respect of the media. During the coming months, the Guild will join hands with other media organisations to sensitize the media and civil society, including political parties and the Election Commission, on the need to eliminate this unacceptable practice.
The Guild will be shortly unveiling an initiative to encourage transparency regarding “paid news” and “private treaties.” We appeal to all stakeholders to join us in pushing for a clean, transparent media.
Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, President of the Guild announced the formation of an Ethics Committee headed by Mr. T N Ninan, Editor in Chief, Business Standard. The members are Mr. B G Varghese, Editor & columnist; Mr. Sumit Chakravarty, Editor, Mainstream and Ms. Madhu Kishwar, Editor, Manushi.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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