Bare Acts

Press Council of India's report on 'favours' to journalists

The Press Council of India has held that government accommodation, 
concessional land, free air tickets and company shares being given to 
journalists, news agencies and newspaper establishments and owners, are 'undue favours'.

 The Council, which undertook a comprehensive study of the subject between 1985 and 1995, concluded that free and concessional bus, rail and other transport facilities given to journalists also fell in the category of favours. It observed that free air travel provided by companies, corporations and airlines was an inducement to write favourably about their products and services, and hence, marred independent reporting.

The Council noted that proprietors of newspapers, instead of journalists and editors, were accompanying the president, vice president, prime minister and the external affairs ministry officials, on their foreign trips. Newspapers, it recommended, should take care to nominate eligible persons for such trips.

The Commission also observed that indiscriminate disbursement of money from the discretionary funds of the chief ministers encouraged unfaithfulness to the mission of journalism and promoted corrupt practices. The following are the recommendations:

Recommendations

The Committee (of the Council on undue favours to journalists) came to the 
conclusion that the following facilities so far being extended by the 
government and the authorities, companies and corporations would amount to favours subject to the observations made here under:


1. Accomodation: Government housing/flats/land
The Committee is of the view that it is the responsibility of the newspaper 
establishments to provide accommodation to its employees. The Committee 
noted that the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its judgement has held that 
journalists are not entitled to government accommodation as they are not 
employees of the government. The Court has said that there were no rules, 
regulations or guidelines governing such allotment with the Chandigarh 
administration. The Court observed that the existing rules were only meant 
for government servants and there was no question of bringing journalists in its ambit. The Committee further noted that the Central Government in its action taken report on the suggestions of the Second Press Commission to the effect that: no further housing facility should be provided to the journalists and the existing allotments of the government accommodation in the National Capital and the States should be charged for at non-subsidised rates and phased out as the present occupants leave —had recorded that no further housing facility would be provided to journalists and in respect of the existing allotments, rent would be charged at non subsidised rates. This decision was taken nearly a decade ago. However, the allotments continued.

The Committee also noted that the governments were giving prime land to the 
newspaper owners at nominal price. Some of the newspaper establishments had either rented out the entire premises after retaining a small portion for 
their own use or had converted the premises into a commercial complex 
thereby earning huge profits. In some of the cases, it was found that the 
newspapers with a view to get another allotment at some other place after 
renting out the entire building, were not even reporting on attacks on their own scribes for the simple reason that they wanted to remain in the good books of the government. Such newspapers were compromising with the fascist forces and the freedom of the press.

2. Allotment of shares in companies 
The Committee was of the opinion that if shares were allotted at special prices or were given under any quota, this would amount to favour. The 
Press Council of India has already issued guidelines for the financial 
journalists.

3. Bus travel/rail travel/transport
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a favour so for as big and 
medium newspapers are concerned. The journalists attached to newspapers 
which are in profit have no justification for availing free or concessional bus/rail/air transport facility. However, in case of small newspapers this 
constituted a facility as the Committee felt that there was justification for extending such a facility. The media persons working at the grassroot level, and work for small newspapers are paid the bare minimum recommended 
under the Wage Board Awards. The financial condition of most of the small 
newspapers is precarious and without such a facility they would be unable 
to cover all news which is necessary to be communicated to their readers. 
Most of the news of the local level which appears in these newspapers were 
most times picked up by the medium and big newspapers. The reporters of the small newspapers and accredited freelance journalists, who cannot afford 
it, must have the facility to travel as much as possible.

4. Foreign Travel
The companies, corporations and airlines extend the facility of air travel to journalists not only within the country but also abroad. The journalists avail of this happily. This is an inducement to write favourably about their products/airlines. A propaganda is undertaken through such devices to 
commercially promote the products/airlines. This certainly interferes with 
independent reporting.

Before 1986, the president, vice president, prime minister and external affairs minister were accompanied by journalists during their foreign trips on the basis of pick and choose policy. But in 1987, Press Council of India framed guidelines on selection of journalists on PM's entourage and this was being generally followed. The Committee, however, noted that often the proprietors of the newspapers were accompanying the president/prime minister on foreign tours in place of journalists and editors.The Committee recommended that the newspapers should take care to nominate eligible persons for the purpose.

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5. Free air tickets
The Committee was of the opinion that this practice constituted an undue 
favour as it enticed journalists to write favourable reports to commercially promote the airline.

6. Cash disbursement from CM'S discretionary fund 
The Committee noted that there are guidelines as to how the discretionary 
fund at the disposal of the chief minister or any other functionary has to be 
spent. The guidelines should be followed strictly. Indiscriminate disbursement of money from the discretionary fund of the chief ministers encourages unfaithfulness to the mission of journalism and promotes corrupt practices.

7. Financial assistance
The Committee was of the opinion that if financial assistance is given for 
medical treatment purposes, it still constitutes a favour, unless, medical aid is being given under the clear cut policy uniformly applicable to all those destitutes or sick persons who cannot afford the medical treatment in case the journalist incidentally happens to be one of those persons, there is nothing wrong in it. 

In Delhi, all the journalists accredited to PIB are entitled to CGHS facility. The Committee feels that extending the CGHS facility to journalists is illogical since CGHS facility is available to government servants only. The provision of medical facilities to its employees is the responsibility of the newspaper establishments.

8-9. Funds for media centre and grants to journalists associations
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a favour, unless it was given for promoting the journalistic skills.

10. Gift cheque by advertising agencies for publication of press note of their clients
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a favour and deserved outright condemnation.

11. Other gifts
The Committee was of the opinion that gifts in any form, irrespective of their value, are to be condemned.

12. Free parking
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a favour if a journalist uses this facility for purposes other than his professional work.

13. Guest hospitality 
The Committee was of the opinion that working journalists as a rule should 
not be treated as State guests. In case an individual is treated as a State 
guest he ipso facto becomes entitled to many facilities without any payment 
thereof. However, when press teams are invited in discharge of their 
professional duties, making due arrangements for them should be an 
exception. The committee further noted that the stay in government guest 
houses by accredited journalists, is permissible if it is for discharging 
professional duties.

14. Import of duty free cameras and computers 
The Committee was of the opinion it is the duty of the newspaper establishment to, provide cameras/computers to its personnel. An individual 
employee journalist is not required to buy camera/computer for his work. In 
the recent past, the Central government had allowed import of duty free 
cameras and computers to the journalists. The Committee felt that this 
concession amounted to a favour. However, the Committee was of the opinion that this facility should be permissible for accredited freelance journalists, provided it is not misused.

15. Insurance premium 
The Committee was of the opinion that it is not for the government to pay 
for the premium towards the insurance of journalists. It is the duty of the 
newspaper establishments or the individual concerned to make such payment 
towards annual dues once the scheme has been introduced.

16. Job to relatives 
Giving jobs to journalist's relative/s not on merit, is an outright attempt 
at inducement.

17. Loans
The Committee was of the opinion that the grant of loans within the ambit 
of policy already laid down for all citizens is permissible. But when the loan is given only to the journalists or at reduced rate of interest or when the interest due or the principal amount is waived/written off/condoned, such a practice would amount to undue favour.

18. Nomination on committees 
The Committee was of the opinion that in some states, the journalists are 
nominated on some organisations and institutions like Public Service 
Commission and are also given the status of state minister or Cabinet 
Minister, which was a wrong practice. Except for the nomination by the 
professional organisations on committees which have a quota to represent 
the various professionals, this practice constitutes favour.

19. PCO/FAX/Phone booth or centre 
The Committee was of the opinion that this is obviously a favour, if gifted. The fax and the phone facility given to all journalists is, however, to be distinguished from the allotment of such booths.

20. Pensionary benefits
The Committee was of the opinion that since the Fourth Estate was not a 
part of the government, this benefit constituted a favour if the pensionary 
benefits were extended by the government. The role of the authorities should be limited to ensuring that the newspaper establishments implement the awards of the Wage Boards.

21. Press clubs - donation of funds
The Committee noted that this practice is prevalent all over the country and fund are being donated lavishly by chief ministers/ministers/leaders not only to genuine press clubs but also to the press clubs of dubious nature. It, therefore, constituted an attempt to induce the journalists to give favourable reports about the donors.

22. Prizes 
The Committee felt that the practice of giving spurious awards has to be 
curbed. There were instances, not worth mentioning, of sale of awards and 
prizes by racketeers making money out of it. Not only the racketeers but 
awardees also were often contributing towards the value of the prizes.

23. Shops
Allotment of shops in their capacity as journalists is a clear cut favour.

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Facilities
The Committee was of the opinion that the following constituted facilities, 
subject to the remarks given:

1. Accreditation
The pattern of the formation of the Central Press Accreditation Committee 
should be followed in all states and union territories. The CPAC at present 
has a good composition of representatives of journalists, owners, editors 
and non editors' organisations headed by Principal Information Officer of the Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Another officer, Director of External Publicity is also called to attend the meeting whenever the issue of foreign accreditation is considered. However, it be made mandatory that the accreditation committee should be constituted within a month of the expiry of the term of the earlier committee and committee should hold its meetings quarterly. A provisional accreditation, if given, must come up before the accreditation committee in its first meeting thereafter.

2. Government and public authority advertisements
It is a mutually beneficial transaction when conducted in keeping with the 
parameters defined in an already laid down policy. However, when given to 
individual newspapers on ad hoc basis or for extraneous considerations or 
when they are not routed through centralised agency, they constitute 
favour.

In addition, governments and public authorities, including the railways, must publish in their annual reports etc., the information regarding advertisements and facilities given by them to journalists and their organisations etc., to ensure greater transparency in their working.

3. Election facilities 
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a must, so that journalists 
are able to cover the events relating to the most important electoral process. Access to all the places of information must be given to them, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the Election Commission of India.

4. Meeting expenses for journalistic conventions, seminars, etc. 
The Committee was of the opinion that this was permissible so long as under 
its garb, cash grants are not given by the governments and public authorities and others.

5. Press rooms 
They are a facility required to be provided for due discharge of the professional duties by the journalists.

6. Inviting press parties 
The Committee was of the opinion that as stated earlier, this was a facility extended by the authorities to provide the necessary information on matters of public interest to the public.

7. Publication material during press conference
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a facility.

8. Training 
The Committee was of the opinion that this was a facility and should be 
encouraged as this will improve the knowledge and efficiency of all those 
engaged in the profession of journalism. The Press Council of India further stated: 
The State governments/UTs which have not provided complete information on 
further queries of the Council are Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh Administration, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. ________________________________________________________________

The Council's Committee on undue favours to journalists (hereinafter referred to as Committee) also sought public co-operation by issuing press releases, from time to time in all the States and Union Territories, inviting organisations, institutions and members of the public to provide any such information to the Committee as may be in their possession or knowledge, which was relevant to the issue. 
The information received from various sources reveals that the press 
persons/newspaper establishments are enjoying the following amenities:

1. Accommodation Government Housing/Flats/Land 
2. Allotment of Shares in Companies. 
3. Bus Travel/Rail Travel/Transport 
4. Foreign Travel 
5. Free Air Tickets 
6. Cash Disbursement from Chief Ministers Discretionary Fund 
7. Financial Assistance 
8. Funds for Media Centre and the like 
9. Grants to journalists associations 
10. Gift Cheque by advertisement agencies for publication of press notes of 
their clients. 
11. Other gifts 
12. Free Parking 
13. Guest Hospitality 
14. Import of duty free cameras and computers 
15. Insurance Premium 
16. Jobs to relatives 
17. Loans 
18. Nomination on Committees 
19. PCO/Fax/Phone 
20. Pensionary benefits 
21. Donation of funds to Press Clubs 
22. Prizes 
23. Shops 
24. Accreditation 
25. Government and public authority advertisements 
26. Election facilities 
27. Meeting expenses for journalists' conventions, seminars, etc. 
28. Inviting press parties 
29. Publication material (issued) during press conferences 
30. Training (Based on a circular by AINEF)

Address of the Press Council: 
Press Council of India 
Faridcot House (Ground Floor) 
Copper Nicus Marg 
New Delhi, India.