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…CHIEF minister Omar Abdullah virtually jumps at the first available opportunity to sermonise media and media persons. Often enough he conveniently forgets his own role, as head of the government, in rewarding unprofessional traits and punishing professional uprightness within the media.

Speaking in Srinagar on Thursday at the inaugural ceremony of the Kashmir edition of The Tribune, Omar as usual let himself go on this topic. He pointedly mentioned the problem of ‘paid news’ becoming a serious issue and held forth, rather pejoratively, on the ‘failure’ of the media to distinguish between ‘news and views’.

It is a fact that the ‘paid news’ has afflicted the media like epidemic. … Unlike in Jammu and Kashmir, this problem in rest of the country is largely related to the role of the fast-growing and cash-rich private sector capable of manipulating media coverage. Here in J&K this malpractice has been monopolised by the government of which Omar Abdullah, right now, happened to be the head. It is an open secret that various state agencies have been converted into conduits to manipulate the flow of public funds (government advertisements) to various newspapers and news agencies. Prescribed criteria for the distribution of government publicity material are being ruthlessly violated.

As it is, Omar’s government happens to be the ‘pay-master’ for keeping alive this culture of ‘paid news’ over which he had so many tears to shed at the Tribune function. …—(Aug 11)