The Indian Newspaper Society on Wednesday condemned Congress president Sonia Gandhi's suggestion of imposing a ban on media advertisements by the government and PSUs for two years, saying such a proposal tantamounts to "financial censorship".
The Indian Newspapers Society asked the Congress chief to withdraw the suggestion in the interest of a "vibrant and free press".
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi made various suggestions for fighting COVID-19, including imposing a "complete ban on media advertisements -- television, print and online by the government and Public Sectors Undertakings for a period of two years".
In a statement, the INS said its president Shailesh Gupta, on behalf of the entire community of INS members, expressed disbelief and condemned the Congress chief's suggestion.
"Such a proposal tantamounts to financial censorship. It is a very small amount as far as government spending is concerned, but it is a huge amount for the newspaper industry, which is essential for any vibrant democracy, and is struggling to survive," the statement said.
"Print is the only industry, which has a wage board and the government decides how much the employees should be paid. This being the only industry where market forces don't decide salaries, the government has a responsibility towards the industry."
The advertisement and circulation revenue had already declined due to recession and the digital onslaught, it noted.
"Further to add to the problem, we now face severe financial crisis due to the complete lockdown of industries and business," the statement said.
At a time like this when media personnel are risking their lives and bringing news on the pandemic situation, the suggestion of the Congress president is deeply disturbing and demotivating for the entire media industry, it said.
The statement comes a day after the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) also "strongly deplored" Sonia Gandhi's suggestion of imposing a ban on media advertisements by the government and public sector undertakings for two years, saying the Congress chief's call was "highly demoralising" for media personnel.
The NBA also called upon the Congress president to withdraw her suggestion made to the prime minister about the "complete ban" on media advertisements for two years in the interest of a "healthy and free media".