Should ‘media corruption’ come under Lokpal?

The more-than-just-a-neutral-observer position taken by sections of the media on the Anna Hazare agitation has clearly begun to rile politicians, and at least two of them cutting across party lines have argued in the last couple of days that the media too must be brought under the purview of the proposed anti-corruption legislation.

Exhibit A: Union minister for law and social justice, Salman Khurshid.

According to a report in The Hindu, Khurshid asked Headlines Today executive editor Rahul Kanwal as to why media corruption should not be investigated under the Team Anna version of the Lokpal bill.

“Do I need to go back to the Niira Radia tapes? Now you are asking why the government has not investigated. If we go ahead with the investigation, we would be accused of being insensitive. If we do, there would be a mass moment for the media.”

Exhibit B: Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Again, according to a report in The Hindu, Mulayam’s demand that the media also be brought under the Lokpal was met with thumping of desks by his colleagues.

“We [Samajwadi Party] suffered in the hands of media [during the polls],” he said during a debate on corruption. Even as a section of the treasury and opposition benche demanding that “media corruption” be also inquired into by Lokpal, Mulayam went on to state that it had become a practice for electronic channels to collect money during polls and air views in support of one party.

Also read: POLL: How has the media covered Anna movement?

Photograph: Television reporters deliver their piece to camera at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi, against the backdrop of the stage on which Anna Hazare is fasting for the Lokpal bill


  1. Corruption is a concept that applies only to the government. If a servant in my house steams money, that is not corruption, that is theft and a normal police complaint can deal with it.

    Corruption happens only when there is misuse of tax payers money or or government regulations to make money. If the privately media organisation has committed misuse of govt. regulations or of tax payers money in order to enrich itself, then the media organisation can be charged with corruption.

    So lets not fall in trap of the thinking that misuse of “privately” owned capital is also corruption. It is not. Corruption is a concept that applies only to the government. It does not apply to private corporations. The crimes committed by private corporations or individuals can be dealt with normal police complaint.

    1. Sam

      Is it a “misuse of privately owned capital” or corruption when a business pays a government official to do his job faster (but that does not result in any loss to the exchequer)?

      Is it a “misuse of privately owned capital” or corruption when a business pays the media to build up public opinion against the government to make a profit at the expense of the exchequer?

      1. @Sam, first of all we need to decide why does an businessman or individual pay a government official. We pay because we are forced to in most instances.

        If a businessman or individual has to pay a bribe to a official for the right to make a living, then who is guilty. It is the official and the system of laws that are guilty.

        A business cannot be penalized if it pays a media house to build opinion against a govt. This is because, a business has every right to spend its money the way it wants. It is private money. It can be spent anyway the owner wants to spend it. A media house is also a private property, it can take for or against stand on any issue.

        If people do not like the product of one media house, they can go to someone else.

        However, a govt. has no right to pay a media house to build up public opinion, because govt. has no right to spend tax payers money on propaganda. All govt. departments must be banned from taking out ads, etc.

  2. Sam

    … first of all we need to decide why does an businessman or individual pay a government official. We pay because we are forced to in most instances …

    No. Businesses,like others, pay either to get “special privileges” or to escape prosecution from the law when they are caught breaking the law. In both cases nobody forces them to pay. They do it for their own selfish reasons.

    You can blame the government for “license raj” or red tapism, but that doesn’t give any official the right to ask for bribe, or a citizen to pay a bribe.

    Individuals, again, pay a bribe for the same reasons. But there is another aspect – the poor do so out of fear and ignorance, and the educated do so out of a combination of fear and / or laziness.

    Fear – the person seeking some government service is afraid that if he doesn’t pay the bribe, the official might sabotage and / or not deliver the service. Or the person might want to file a complain but is afraid of approaching higher authority.

    Ignorance – These are often a result of beliefs like “everybody is corrupt”, “there is nothing I can do about this” or sometimes even “I really don’t know what to do, so I’ll just give the bribe”.

    Laziness – most educated people don’t file a complain or act against corruption out of pure laziness. They know if they file a complain, they might have to spend some time and effort.

    In no way am I saying that corrupt officials don’t exist. Some of the corrupt officials might indeed make open threats if a bribe is not given.


    Even businesses. Nobody forces you.

    The right response to anybody asking a bribe is to not pay it and file a complain.

    It is your civic duty to file a complain. Democracy or governance doesn’t end with the government – it begins with you, from you. Corruption doesn’t exist because of corrupt officials. It exists because the citizens do not fight it.

    I won’t go into your business vs government ideas because it is based on your personal political ideology.

    I differ with it; based on our own country’s experience with the East India company, I have no hesitation in saying that for-profit corporation act only for their own interests.

  3. Let me ask you one question Mr. Sam – How many complaints have you filed in life?

    People have better things to do then filing complaints and then running around courts. We would willingly pay 100 rupee to a sarkari jerk, if not paying that much means running around for few hours.

    We also need to understand the definition of a businessman – A businessman is one who gives value for value. If you pay a certain price to a businessman, he will give you something of equal value. Anyone who cheats his customers is not a businessman.

    In this country businessmen are not allowed to create values for society unless they pay bribes. That is the problem.

    The need of the hour is reform. Why do we have such a gigantic “nanny state” in this country. The corruption is there because socialism creates scarcity and too many people start running after scarce resources.

  4. Sam

    I had submitted a long post, and when it didn’t appear here, I thought it had gone into the moderation queue (perhaps because it was really long). Anyway, I’ll make it brief this time.

    … How many complaints have you filed in life?
    Two stand out:

    1. I had applied for a passport under Tatkal. Didn’t get it within the stipulated 7 days. I looked up who the RTI officer was, and filed an RTI asking them to explain why my passport wasn’t issued. Got my passport the next day.

    2. My aunt’s pension was delayed by 2 months. The bank manager kept insisting that the problem was at the head office. I wrote a letter to the MD and the GM. The next day, both called my aunt and apologised. Later, the same day, the bank manager also called and said the pension had been credited,

    Not every complain has been a success: in my own neighbourhood, garbage isnt collected properly despite complaining to the sanitation inspector many times. A street light also hasn’t been repaired despite many complaints. Doesn’t mean I am going to give up – there is no quick fix solution in life.

    People have better things to do then filing complaints and then running around courts.

    People get the kind of government they demand. Elected representatives or high ranking IAS / IPS officers can’t read minds and know who is corrupt or not. Complain, and it comes to their attention.

    Like I said before, both of us have different political ideology. The only common ground I can find with you is that I too agree that there needs to be reforms to reduce red tapism.

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