Katju warns of legal action if press wrongly denied govt ads

Hitting out at governments for stopping advertisements to publications over "critical" articles, Press Council chairperson Markandey Katju said it will not tolerate it and shall take legal action.

New Delhi: Hitting out at governments for allegedly stopping advertisements to publications over "critical" articles, Press Council chairperson Markandey Katju on Monday said it will not tolerate such behaviour and shall take suitable legal action.
Stopping advertisements or drastically reducing them merely because a critical article has been published, is totally undemocratic and shows pettiness of mind, and is totally unacceptable in a democracy, he said, asserting that such actions infringe on Freedom of Speech.

In a statement, the PCI chief said that newspapers and journals must be a given a hearing by issuing them show cause notice if the concerned authorities decide to curtail advertisements to them.

Katju said he had been receiving several complaints from newspapers and journals that the advertisements which were being issued by them by central or state governments have at times suddenly stopped or drastically reduced without assign any reason.

"Sometimes this is done because of the newspapers/ journals publishing material critical of a government or some of its ministers/officials," he said.

Katju said that advertisements were the main form of revenue for newspapers and journals and such actions violated Press freedom.

"The Press Council of India will not tolerate any further this kind of behaviour on the part of any government, its ministers or officials, and shall take suitable legal action in the matter," he said.

The PCI chairperson said that the people, including the Press have a right to criticise the government, and this is a part of the freedom of the speech under Article 19 (1)(a) of the constitution of India. Governments, Ministers and Officials must develop tolerance and must have the strength to stand up to criticism, he said.

In his statement, Katju opined that once it has been decided to give advertisements to a newspaper or journal, stopping or reducing it without giving the publication an opportunity of hearing amounted to violation of the principle of legitimate expectation and natural justice.

"I therefore, direct all central/state governments including ministers or officials and statutory bodies/ public sector undertakings that if it is proposed to stop the advertisements of some newspapers/ journals, or curtail them, then a prior show cause notice must be issued to that newspaper/journals mentioning the charges against it and giving it opportunity of hearing," Katju said in his statement.

"Thereafter a reasoned order must be passed giving the reasons of such decision, and this must be communicated to the concerned newspaper/journal," he added.
The PCI chief also said that in case of advertisements by the central government, the New Advertisement Policy of the DAVP should be followed in letter and spirit, he said.