Cutting across political lines, Members of Parliament in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday voiced concern over the growing menace of paid news that can mislead readers and sought effective government response to stamp it out.
After members raised concerns over publicity advertisements being camouflaged as news in advertorial or response features, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley said paid news is an aberration and should be checked but there lies a danger of government action being construed as interference in free speech.
Noting that a very important issue has been raised, the Minister said he had the least of doubts that all members are “absolutely committed to free speech”.
And commercial speech like advertisements also constitutes part of free speech, he said.
He said advertisement is the right of everyone but “when governments start excessively advertising, where is the dividing line between advertisement and bribery”.
“We want to get rid of (this) aberration,” he said adding there would be a discussion in the House on the issue to find ways to deal with the problem.
He said there was a danger of any action being construed as government interference.