Bhopal, May 9: Madhya Pradesh state government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) provided advertisements worth Rs 14 crores to dodgy websites and news portals over the past 3 years. The news came to limelight after Congress MLA Bala Bachchan raised the question in the legislative assembly. The ruling regime, in its reply, handed over a list which revealed that a total of 234 websites were provided advertisements ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 21.7 lakhs.

Some of prominent websites which were chosen for promotional stuff by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government include – www.deshbhakti.com, www.rashtrawad.com, www.citychowk.com, www.prakalp.org, www.failaan.com, www.burningnews.org. (ALSO READ: #NoGovtAdsToNDTV: Twitterati demand Narendra Modi government to severe ties with ‘anti-national’ NDTV)

Opposition severely criticised the decision of the state government, accusing it of favouring those media outlets which share ideological affinity with them, rather than those which have more credibility. Accusations of corruption have also cropped up as most of these websites are being run by relatives of journalists. An investigation by The Indian Express revealed that failaan.com and www.indianews&view.com are being ran by Prakash Agnihotri and Rajesh Agnihotri. Both are closely related to television journalist Rakesh Agnihotri working for local news channel Swaraj Express.

Another website, www.webkhabar.com, has also been provided advertisements worth Rs 11.25 lakh by the state government. The site is owned by Poonam Bhatnagar, whose husband, Prakash Bhatnagar, editor of local Hindi daily L N Star is known for his proximity with the ruling regime.

Similarly, the website burningnews.org, which was provided with an advertisement of Rs 20.75 lakh is being runned by Shruti Anurag Upadhyay, the wife of former India TV journalist Anurag Upadhyay.

“Advertisements should only be provided to credible news sites. Why are they giving advertisements to such news portals which are not being run by genuine journalists. Are they favouring those who are associated with BJP? In such a situation, media persons cannot do their work independently,” MLA Bala Bachchan said while speaking to The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh government’s commissioner for public relations, Anupam Ranjan, denied any foul play. He claimed that the state provides advertisements to only those news websites which get good hits and are functional. “It is not the responsibility of the government if the websites shut down after getting advertisements,” he added.