The Press Council of India (PCI) Tuesday pulled up Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for stopping the state government advertisements to Rashtradoot, a prominent Hindi daily of the state, for allegedly not publishing favourable news, according to NewsDrum.
PCI held Gehlot prima facie guilty of discriminating against the newspaper with regard to the issuance of the advertisements for almost three years since January 2020.
The landmark ruling by the Press Council will help many other newspapers to fight against arm-twisting by the governments by drastically cutting down their advertisements if they don't toe their political line, forcing many to close down, Rashtradoot said in a press statement.
The PCI expressed its "extreme displeasure" about the controversial statement made by Gehlot at a press conference in Jaipur on December 16, 2019, that only those newspapers will get the government advertisements “who publicise and propagate government schemes with full conviction”.
The PCI took suo motu cognisance and issued a notice to the Rajasthan Government to explain Gehlot's unwarranted comments.
It also adopted on Tuesday an internal inquiry report saying "the statement made by the chief minister that advertisements will be issued to those newspapers which will give publicity to the government schemes is a development which is likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance. If such statements are brought into action, it is likely to adversely affect the economic viability of certain newspapers to whom the advertisements may not be released because of political considerations and that will cripple their capacity to supply and disseminate news of public interest and importance."
Rashtradoot is the third largest circulated daily with eight editions, but the advertisements released to it by the government departments, boards and corporations brought it down to 8th position in terms of revenue from the advertisements.
Statistics filed by the newspaper show that it got zero advertisements from the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) for the first 10 months of 2020 as also for the first seven months of 2022. In 2021 too, it was given advertisements of a paltry amount of 10% when the PCI issued notice to the state government for discrimination.
The inquiry report slammed the chief minister for his statement portraying a "discriminatory approach" as also in breach of the state government's Model Advertisement Policy Guide, 2014."
The order rejected the state government's claim that the Press Council has no jurisdiction in the matter.