Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Legal Provisions for disqualification mentioned in newscard.
Mains level: Paid-news debate in India.
Paid News vs. Free Speech
- Repeated publication of propaganda lauding the achievements of a candidate in an election is nothing but “paid news”, the Election Commission of India has told the apex Court.
- Politicians cannot say that it is part of their fundamental right to free speech to spew out “motivated propaganda”.
- The EC has asked the court to declare whether it amounts to “paid news” if widely circulated daily newspapers cover statements issued by, and in the name of, a candidate.
- Such news are not only laudatory of his or her record and achievements but also are a direct appeal to voters by the candidate.
- If such motivated propaganda is allowed in the name of free speech during the election period, candidates with a strong network of connections will exploit their sphere of influence in society.
- This will have the unequal advantage of encashing such silent services.
- The commission has moved the court in appeal against a decision of the Delhi High Court to set aside the disqualification of a MP in Madhya Pradesh.
- ECI’s National Level Committee on Paid News found that five newspapers, with a wide circulation, had published 42 news items that were biased and one-sided and aimed at furthering the prospects of the leader.
- Some of the reports were advertisements in favour of him. The committee concluded that the items fitted the definition of “paid news”.
- The conduct of the eager supporters, whose extensive coverage, as in this case, being dubbed as freedom of expression cannot be termed news.
- This is so because ‘news’ is expected to be unbiased and characterized by dispassionate coverage and proportionate space to other contenders.
- If the court shut its eye to this case, “the assertion of freedom of speech would become a stock pretence or plea by the service provider and the beneficiary candidate”.