New Delhi: The Rajkot collector Remya Mohan has stirred up a controversy after offering cheques worth Rs 50,000 each to journalists, allegedly in return for coverage of Gujarat’s state-level Republic Day function.
The cheques were reportedly offered on 1 February, a week after grand Republic Day celebrations held at Rajkot’s racecourse ground. The city, which hosted the state-level celebrations on 26 January, saw the presence of state governor Acharya Devvrat and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, along with other ministers and state officials.
Mohan allegedly offered the money to journalists of eight news organisations, including Divya Bhaskar — the Gujarati daily that is part of the Dainik Bhaskar group. The Divya Bhaskar carried a report Monday, stating that its reporter refused to accept the cheque as it would be a violation of journalistic ethics.
The cheque is shown to have the signature of Mohan as well as the resident additional collector of Rajkot Parimal Pandya. Mohan admitted to ThePrint that her office offered these cheques and also that the money didn’t come from a government grant meant for advertisements.
“The cheques were for publishing our advertisement material for the dates, times and locations of various events associated with Republic Day. They were issued from a citizen fund set up after due process by the core committee of the event,” Mohan told ThePrint.
राजकोट कलेक्टर के हस्ताक्षर वाले ₹50-50 हजार के चेक से 8 पत्रकारों को रिश्वत.
पत्रकारों को बताया गया था कि गणतंत्र दिवस समारोह के अच्छे कवरेज के एवज में ये चेक दिए जा रहे हैं. दिव्य भास्कर ने चेक लेने से इनकार कर दिया https://t.co/PkSKuXULnJ
— Milind Khandekar (@milindkhandekar) February 4, 2020
Dainik Bhaskar, in its report, claimed that when confronted by its editors, the collector said the money came from “real estate developers” who wanted to give money to papers that contributed to the publicity of the event.
Mohan told ThePrint that the money for the “citizen fund’ came from “organisations of the district from fields of education, industry, cooperatives who were invited for Republic Day”.
“Real estate companies have also contributed,” she added.
Mohan further said the money was being given merely for “ad brochure with dates,time and locations of all events so that maximum number of citizens could participate”.
Dainik Bhaskar’s executive editor for Rajkot, Arjun Dangar, however, said the paper never published any advertisement for the state’s Republic Day celebrations.
‘Was shocked, ad money should be addressed to organisation’
Dangar further told ThePrint that he was shocked by the offer. “When my reporter told me he is being offered a cheque, I was shocked. After all, we never posted an ad for the celebrations,” he said.
“If someone is offering you money, even when you haven’t done something, what does this imply?” he asked.
Dangar also said that all official advertisements come with a release order of the government, along with a cheque that is in the name of the organisation and not the reporter.
“There was no official release order to publish any ad. These release orders come with complete information on content, which page the ad is to be published on and whether it should be coloured or black and white,” he said.
“More importantly, the money for such ads is given in the name of the organisation, not an individual journalist,” Dangar added.