Union minister for finance and information and broadcasting Arun Jaitley told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, that though the government supports free speech, the “aberration” of paid news needs to be checked.
He was responding to the demand from MPs to put a stop to the “scourge” of paid news, described as a “blot on democracy” by CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury.
The issue of “paid news” made the members of the Upper House who have been bickering over the past week over the AgustaWestland bribery scam bury the hatchet and agree to find a solution to the problem.
After BJP’s Vijay Goel flagged the issue of paid news and its impact on democracy and free press, drawing support from members across party lines, Jaitley said, “Paid news is an aberration... we are all victims of paid news. Advertising is the right of everyone, but when governments start excessively advertising, where is the dividing line between advertisement and bribery.”
Pointing out that he personally disagreed with the notion that commercial speech is also free speech, Jaitley said the phenomenon of paid news does not augur well for democracy.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Goel said paid news is casting aspersions on the credibility of media. “The wall between sales department and reporter has been removed,” he said, alleging that despite 1,400 cases.
While Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agrawal said the problem extends to the electronic media as well, which run paid news in the form of surveys to influence electoral outcome; Naresh Gujral (SAD) described paid news as “blackmail”.