The Indian Newspaper Society has condemned Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion of imposing a ban on media advertisements by the government and PSUs for two years. In a statement, the INS President Shailesh Gupta, on behalf of the entire community of INS members, expressed disbelief and condemned the Congress chief’s suggestion.
The statement comes at a time when media personnel are risking their lives and bringing news on the pandemic situation. INS chief said that Sonia Gandhi’s proposal tantamounts to “financial censorship”. He asked Congress chief to withdraw the suggestion in the interest of a “vibrant and free press”.
The INS statement said, “ It is a very small amount as far as government spending is concerned, but it is a huge amount for the newspaper industry, which is essential for any vibrant democracy, and is struggling to survive”. “Print is the only industry, which has a wage board and the government decides how much the employees should be paid. This being the only industry where market forces don’t decide salaries, the government has a responsibility towards the industry.”
The advertisement and circulation revenue had already declined due to recession and the digital onslaught, it noted. “Further to add to the problem, we now face severe financial crisis due to the complete lockdown of industries and business,” the statement said.
The INS statement comes a day after the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) also “strongly deplored” Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion of imposing a ban on media advertisements by the government and public sector undertakings for two years. The NBA also called upon the Congress president to withdraw her suggestion made to the prime minister about the “complete ban” on media advertisements for two years in the interest of a “healthy and free media”.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi had made various suggestions for fighting COVID-19, including imposing a “complete ban on media advertisements — television, print and online by the government and Public Sectors Undertakings for a period of two years”.
The author is a northeast India based media activist. Views expressed are his own