The Shillong Press Club (SPC) has flayed Nongkrem MLA and VPP president Ardent M. Basaiawmoit for his “paid media” remarks during his speech at a recent party gathering at Pynursla.
Terming Basaiawmoit’s remarks as “unsavoury” and “baseless allegations”, the SPC in a statement signed by its president David Laitphlang and general secretary Powell Sohkhlet said, “It is unfortunate for an experienced legislator to level baseless accusations against the press fraternity under the garb of presenting fake news and more tragically insinuating that journalists in the State are succumbing to the paid news syndrome as elsewhere.”
“It is also shocking to hear him publicly telling people that the media only covers VPP events to pin point and identify faults and lacunae in the party’s affairs. The SPC would like to remind Basaiawmoit that a journalist’s sworn duty and mandate is to gather information which includes the good, the bad and the ugly based on facts and not rumours or gossip,” the statement said.
“The SPC would like Basaiawmoit to clearly state whether the VPP expects only information and news that spell good tidings on the party’s behalf or if the VPP would like only the chosen few who probably fall under the bracket of his accusations to cover the party’s future events.” The statement added.
Further, the SPC reminded Basaiawmoit that the positive of the party’s result in the recently concluded Assembly elections ought to be attributed largely to substantial and continuous media coverage across all media platforms.
“Does that indicate that all the journalists covering VPP events in the run up to the elections were paid or solicited or induced in any form so as to generate four Assembly seats for a new political entity in the political spectrum of the State?” it asked.
The SPC also demanded to know the names of the journalists that have erred in the discharge of their professional duties by unfair means “as making a blanket accusation goes against the spirit of free and fair journalism which the SPC and all media houses in Meghalaya have endeavoured to pursue to the hilt”.
“Making a blanket accusation is not only foolhardy but constitutes defamation against the journalist fraternity of Meghalaya. Hence, an adequate clarification and apology is immediately sought, failing which the SPC will be compelled to take recourse to other appropriate measures,” the statement concluded.