The Congress Tuesday distanced itself from a bill on media regulation proposed by Meenakshi Natarajan, a Lok Sabha MP and an aide of party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, even as Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju accused the media of diverting interest from national issues.
"The bill is based on her (Natarajan's) views. These are not the views of Rahul Gandhi. Neither are these his views nor has she got his consent on this bill," Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters here.
Natarajan, a first-time MP, was supposed to introduce The Print and Electronic Media Standards and Regulation Bill, 2012, a private member's bill, last week. However, she was absent during the session.
Her bill proposes sweeping powers to an authority to regulate media including banning or suspending coverage of an event or incident that may pose a threat to national security from foreign or internal sources.
The bill even suggests a fine of up to Rs. 50 lakh, suspension of the organisation's licence for up to 11 months and cancellation in some cases. Natarajan, 38, was elected from the Mandsaur constituency in Madhya Pradesh in 2009.
She is also an All India Congress Committee secretary and part of Rahul Gandhi's core team.
The proposed media regulation bill has sparked a vigorous debate, with many senior journalists decrying subversion of democracy and calling for freedom of content and expression.
Katju, however, pitched for some form of media regulation for the sake of national responsibility.
The media is diverting attention from real issues like poverty and farmers' suicides by giving more coverage to cricket and film stars' affairs, Katju told NDTV in a debate on the issue of media regulation Tuesday.
In a talk on ‘Media and Social Responsibility’ in Pune last week, Katju had said some regulation of content in the press is needed as the media seems to have lost its sense of proportion between information and entertainment. The media should take a leading role in guiding the nation towards positive transition, said Katju, a retired judge of the Supreme Court.