SHILLONG: The Shillong Press Club (SPC) has strongly condemned recent accusations against the state’s journalist fraternity by Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, the Chief of Voice of the People Party (VPP). The Press Club has demanded an immediate apology for the claims, which it describes as “unsavoury” and “baseless”.
The controversy stems from comments made by Basaiawmoit, who is also the Nongkrem legislator. He alleged that journalists in Meghalaya succumb to the “paid news syndrome”, insinuating that local press coverage is skewed and potentially influenced by external payments.
Addressing these claims on Thursday, David Laitphlang, the President of SPC, expressed deep disappointment and resentment. “It is alarming to hear a seasoned legislator suggest that the media attends VPP events solely to identify faults in the party’s actions,” Laitphlang said.
In a pointed remark, he asked Basaiawmoit whether VPP desires exclusively positive media coverage and if it intends to limit its events only to select journalists who meet the party’s criteria.
The SPC has challenged Basaiawmoit to provide concrete evidence to support his allegations. “We demand the names of any journalists who have supposedly strayed from their professional duties,” Laitphlang added. He highlighted that such a broad-brush accusation threatens the principles of free and impartial journalism that Meghalayan media outlets staunchly uphold.
Without an adequate clarification and an apology, the SPC warns that it might resort to further measures to protect the reputation of the state’s journalists.
Laitphlang also underscored a journalist’s pivotal role, which is to present accurate information based on facts rather than unsubstantiated rumours or gossip.
Highlighting the crucial role of media, the SPC reminded Basaiawmoit of the extensive press attention during the recent assembly elections. The VPP’s commendable electoral results, it argues, were significantly amplified by the continuous media coverage.
“Does this suggest that journalists were influenced to ensure the VPP secured four assembly seats?” the SPC questioned, highlighting the inconsistency in Basaiawmoit’s remarks.