The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
welcomes new disclosure norms introduced by the Securities and Exchange Board
of India (SEBI), requiring that the country’s media companies reveal any shareholdings
held in companies they report on.
norms evolved in consultation with the Press Council of India (PCI) in response
to growing public concern over the prevalence of news content that was paid for
by corporate and political entities.
believes that disclosure norms are mandatory for individual journalists under
codes of practice enforced by all media houses,” IFJ
Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
it seems that the media houses themselves have failed to meet the standards of
transparency and public probity that they expect from their journalists.”
practice of “private treaties” between media houses and corporate entities,
which involved an exchange of shares for free advertising space and time, has
been the focus of considerable public anxiety. Invariably these “private
treaties” involved corporate entities that had imminent plans of public share
offers. Media houses that acquired shares in these companies stood to make
windfall gains when the shares were listed on the stock markets. SEBI has drawn
attention to the potential for serious conflict of interest in this practice.
from SEBI, the PCI tendered advice on August 2 that the following disclosures
be made mandatory for media houses: (i) their share holdings in companies that
were being reported on; (ii) the quantum and value of their stakes in companies
they had concluded “private treaties” with; and (iii) any nominees they have on
the boards of the companies they report on.
about news coverage that was paid for came into sharp focus after India’s
general elections in 2009, when several newspapers were found to have opened
bargain counters for candidates to bid for space and favourable coverage.
of media malpractices was the subject of an inquiry by a specially constituted
two-member committee of the PCI, which submitted a comprehensive report for the
consideration of the full membership of the council in April. As the IFJ noted
earlier in August, several of the key findings and recommendations of the
two-member committee were omitted when the PCI issued its final report in late July.
requirement for mandatory disclosure by media companies in situations involving
a potential conflict of interest are welcome in this context. Though we
understand that SEBI, unlike the PCI, has powers of statutory enforcement, we
would expect India’s
media industry to voluntarily put in place the proposed disclosure norms which
are essential to ensuring free media practices in a democratic society,” Park
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
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