New Delhi, June 29, 2019: In what is being seen as a possible attack on press freedom, the Centre has frozen ads in three big newspaper groups with a total monthly readership of 2.6 crore people reported Reuters on Friday, 28 June.
The report also stated that the media houses claimed that they had been deprived of ads worth lakhs of rupees in the run up to the April-May’s general elections.
An executive at Bennett, Coleman & Co of the Times Group that puts out The Times of India and The Economic Times told Reuters that the freeze could be because of unfavourable reports published.
“There is a freeze. Could be (because of) some reports they were unhappy with,” the executive said on the condition of anonymity. He also added that 15% of the company’s advertising was from the government, mainly in the form of contract tenders and publicising government schemes.
Two company officials from the ABP Group that publishes The Telegraph also reported 15% drop in government ads for six months.
“Once you don’t toe the government line in your editorial coverage and you write anything against the government, then obviously the only way they can penalise you (is) to choke your advertising supply,” the first ABP official told Reuters. The company has reportedly received no communication from the government and is searching for alternate ways to plug the gap.
“Press freedom must be maintained and it will be maintained despite these things,” an ABP official told Reuters.
The Hindu newspaper group also apparently witnessed a plunge in government advertising after multiple reports on the controversial Rafale deal, an official told Reuters.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told Parliament this week that “The undemocratic and megalomaniac style of stopping government advertisement is a message to media from this government to toe its line.”