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Andhra Pradesh Govt's Decision To Hire Journalists For Publicity Is Causing A Stir

25 journalists will be given a salary of 51,468 per month. 

13/12/2016 2:56 PM IST | Updated 13/12/2016 4:52 PM IST
Bernat Armangue/AP

The Andhra Pradesh's government decision to hire journalists "to carry out the publicity and other works as Back Office of Hon'ble Chief Minister's Office" has sparked quite a controversy.

While Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan has described the move as official bribery, the Chandrababu Naidu government has said the exercise is completely above aboard.

"Now AP CM officially bribes 25 journos to do his PR & publicly work," Bhushan tweeted earlier today.

Parakala Prabhakar, communications advisor to the AP government, told The News Minute, "Prashant Bhushan has understood it wrongly. It is not a bribe, but these people will be on the rolls of the AP government."

According to the government order, 25 journalists will be hired on a contract basis and given a salary of 51,468 per month.

S Venkateshwar, commissioner of the Information and Public Relations Department, told the Hindustan Times that the I&PR department was short-staffed after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. "We have not recruited any regular PROs in CMO or other ministries. So, we had to take experienced journalists on outsourcing. They are all paid salaries. How can anybody call salary as a bribe?" he told HT.

The Hoot reports that the decision comes at a time when the media isn't playing a adversarial role in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Journalists from the national newspapers have told The Hoot that chief ministers in both states are exactly shy about demanding positive coverage.

In The Hoot, Padmaja Shaw writes that the the salary offered by the AP government will make this offer a tempting one for journalists, who often receive a starting salary of ₹8,000. This has created conditions in which both public and private bodies pay journalists for coverage, with the knowledge of the media houses.

"With this innovative move, the Andhra Pradesh government seems to have legalised this much-despised prostitution of the media and that too while using public money. So far, the buying and selling of publicity through willing media houses/media persons and state/private agencies was always based on mutual understanding between the buyer and the seller. Now it is being formalised with a handsome pay package and EPF etc. to 'man' the backroom of the CM in order to monitor and whip up publicity to support the government," Shaw writes.

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