Jharkhand’s BJP government promotes ‘paid news’, offers ₹15000 per report besides pension to journalists 

Press Council of India and journalists’ bodies have been silent on a brazen attempt to promote ‘paid news’ in Jharkhand, where elections are round the corner

Jharkhand’s BJP government promotes ‘paid news’, offers ₹15000 per report besides pension to journalists 

Kislaya

The BJP government in Jharkhand has offered a windfall to journalists working in the state. All they need to do is to write ‘positive’ reports about the government and rake in as much as Rs 15,000 per report for their effort.

While print and video reports will be vetted by the government, the responsibility of getting them published or aired would be with the journalist concerned. Once they submit the pre-approved report to the state’s Public Relations Department, the government would make the payment. The offer, publicised by way of an advertisement which was uploaded on the department’s website as well, mentions that after scrutiny of proposals, which were to be submitted by September 16, 30 applicants would be shortlisted by the government for the largesse. There is no clarity, however, how long the offer would continue and whether the same journalist will be allowed to write multiple ‘positive’ reports and get paid by the government.

There is radio silence on the advertisement in the local media. Attempts to elicit reactions from editors and journalists drew a blank. Nobody was ready to comment on or criticise the brazen attempt to promote ‘Paid News’ on record.

Press conferences, interviews given by ministers and bureaucrats, press releases and field trips to show the government’s achievements have been the traditional ways to get favourable reports published or broadcast in the media. Governments have also been using advertisements as a stick to not only beat its own drum but also to keep the media in check. But this is possibly the first time a state government has openly offered to usurp editorial responsibilities and reward journalists upfront by paying for their reports.

The attempt, said an official, was to ensure good publicity without spending much higher amounts on advertising.

Also, advertisements and advertorials, the official said, did not carry as much conviction as what would pass as individual efforts by journalists. The same advertisement has also offered to pay Rs 5000 per report or article accepted for publication in the department’s official journal.

The state’s BJP government also spent a whopping Rs 20 crore to construct a building for the press club in Ranchi. Each of the four floors in the building has a floor area of 5000 square feet. It has lifts, conference halls, guestrooms and office chambers for office bearers. A canteen also functions from the building and while there is a library too, not many seem to use it.

The Raghuvar Das Government has also been conducting a monthly visit to different parts of the state for reporters. Lavish hospitality marked these trips. The jaunts are decided in consultation with editors and the management of media houses.

The state’s BJP government also spent a whopping Rs 20 crore to construct a building for the press club in Ranchi. Each of the four floors in the building has a floor area of 5000 square feet. It has lifts, conference halls, guestrooms and office chambers for office bearers. A canteen also functions from the building and while there is a library too, not many seem to use it.

The Raghuvar Das Government has also been conducting a monthly visit to different parts of the state for reporters. Lavish hospitality marked these trips. The jaunts are decided in consultation with editors and the management of media houses.

Following every such visit, local newspapers have been in the habit of carrying fulsome praise of the government schemes. Retainers, stringers and the unpaid correspondents in villages and subdivisions have, however, been left in the lurch.

Reports from grassroots and first-hand reports from the ground have been overshadowed by the hagiography dished out by reporters based in the state capital.

Ahead of the Assembly election later this year, the state government has also proposed a monthly pension of Rs 7000 to retired journalists. While the proposal has been approved by the cabinet, the journalists want the government now to enhance the amount and simplify the procedures.

Neither the Press Council of India nor various journalist bodies have objected so far to the promotion by the BJP government of what undeniably is promotion of ‘Paid News’.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.