The Editors Guild of India, an industry body that represents senior media editors from across the country, has come down strongly against the ''pernicious practice'' of publishing 'paid news' by some newspapers and television channels.
It has declared the issue of paid news - or advertisements disguised as news - as its focal agendum for 2010. The guild, in its annual general meeting held in Tuesday in Delhi, announced the setting up of an ethics committee that will draft a code of conduct on the issue.
''To begin with we will send out letters to editors across the country to mobilise consent on the steps to be taken to check this menace,'' said Rajdeep Sardesai, president of the guild and editor-in-chief of IBN Network. The code of conduct will list the dos and don'ts on the issue, said Sardesai.
The ethics committee that will draft the code will be headed by T N Ninan, editor-in-chief of Business Standard, who first raised the issue. The other members of the committee are columnist B G Varghese, Sumit Chakravarty, editor of Mainstream magazine, and Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi.
The guild said the practice – which was particularly evident during the general elections this year – ''whittles down the foundations of Indian journalism''. The guild noted, ''Both the media organisations and the editors who indulge in this practice, and the buyers (companies, organisations or individuals) who pay for such news to be carried are guilty of undermining a free and fair press, which every citizen of India is entitled to.''
Besides setting up the ethics committee, the guild also decided to approach the Election Commission to suggest reforms in the election laws, as ''paid news'' was being used by political parties to circumvent the strict limits on poll expenditure.