NEW DELHI: By starting their own newspapers, political parties and business groups are promoting their vested interests and compromising the values of journalism, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said on Saturday.
Highlighting the perils of fake news, he said maybe it is time for media bodies to come up with a code of conduct for journalists.
Naidu was speaking at an event organised by the Press Council of India to observe the National Press Day and confer National Awards for Excellence in Journalism.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar also attended the event.
With business groups and even political parties setting up newspapers and TV channels to further their interests, the core values of journalism are getting eroded, the vice president said.
He stressed that if a newspaper is run by a political party, it should clearly mention so.
"Political parties and politicians started their own newspapers. They are called newspapers but they should be (called) newsletters.
"That is an undesirable trend that has crept into our system. To protect and promote your business interest, to paint your rivals in a negative manner, you are using it (media)," he said.
Naidu also urged journalists to exercise caution in the time of sensationalism.
"Sensationalism has become order of the day, sensational news means senseless news," he said.
The cardinal principle of journalism is to present fair, objective, accurate and balanced information to the readers and viewers without journalists assuming the role of gatekeepers, he said.
Instead of giving expression to the popular feeling, some newspapers these days are giving expression to coloured and partisan views, he added.
Naidu said times have changed in such a way that one has to now read a minimum of four to five major newspapers to get a complete sense of the current developments.
"Same is the case with the news channels. Earlier, that was not the case," he remarked.
Stressing on the need to maintain objectivity, fairness and accuracy, the vice president said neutrality and sanctity of newsrooms should be upheld at all times.
"This has become all the more critical in the present times after the advent of the 'fake news' phenomenon and the huge impact social media is creating.
"With the electronic and social media providing news by the minute with alerts and flashes on smartphones, journalists will have to exercise greater caution and guard against 'fake news', disinformation and misinformation," he said.
Sensationalism, biased coverage and paid news have become the modern-day afflictions of the media, he said.
Naidu called on journalists to guard against fake news and narratives "as they can be used by vested interests to create dissensions and divisions in our pluralistic society".
"Maybe the time has come for media bodies to come out with a code of conduct for journalists," he said. Javadekar said fake news is a bigger crisis than paid news.
"This is the day for the press to understand its freedom as well as its responsibility. Today there is a crisis of fake news more than paid news," he said.