Sibal urges response to paid news

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 15, 2010 20:20 hrs

Devjyot Ghoshal wins BS-Seema Nazareth Award for Excellence in Print Journalism

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal today came down heavily on the practice of "paid news", a subject on which debate has been raging at various forums, including Parliament, and urged journalists to respond to this challenge.

"If we do not respond, the free Press would not have discharged its responsibilities," he said, after giving away the Business Standard-Seema Nazareth Award for Excellence in Print Journalism for 2009. The award, which consists of Rs 25,000, a citation and a silver pen, was given to Devjyot Ghoshal, Correspondent.

The citation for the award, in its 11th year, recognised Ghoshal’s reports in the fields of energy, transport and water, and praised his evolved sense of what is news in a social context.

The award was instituted by Business Standard and the Nazareth family in memory of Seema Nazareth, who died in 1999 when she was working with this newspaper.

India, according to the minister, is in the midst of a process of enormous change. The political process has to respond to this change, but does not match up to its pace and fails to recognise the importance of responding to it in a constructive and responsible fashion.

In this context, said Sibal, journalists had an important role to play, but their profession was in danger of losing its way because of the menace of paid news.

"I do not see journalism responding to this change, neither in quantitative nor qualitative terms. We saw a recent debate on paid news. Going through my election, I experienced it. There is no way to combat it or deal with it. It is now a practice, and an accepted practice," said the minister.

Recounting his brush with the practice, he said the peddlers of paid news freely quoted the rate per inch of space. What made it worse, he said, was that it was not even political advertisement. "(Political advertisement) allows you to talk about what you have achieved. But this (paid news) has no connection with the truth at all. On the same page you may find two stories contrary to each other."

The minister also urged journalists to create space for key issues of the day, such as the Women’s Reservation Bill, passed recently by the Rajya Sabha, and the Right to Education Bill, which is to be implemented from April 1 this year.

"Many things have happened in the last 10 years because the Press brought the issue into public domain. We respect that. But what is happening today is that the Press and young journalists, who have no subject matter knowledge of the areas they deal with, write without that knowledge. That does great disservice to the personalities involved and the nation. We need to create space for debate," said Sibal.

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