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AIR spotlight summary: National Press freedom day


AIR spotlight summary: National Press freedom day


Context:

PM has given a speech at Vigyan Bhavan and announced government’s policy on media freedom. This announcement is much needed at a time when there is a perception about media sensation. But he came absolutely clear saying that Press freedom will be upheld at all cost and there would be no kind of external control or government intervention. Freedom of press will be respected everywhere.

He also mentioned role of Social Media and said that it should be more participative and creative for all Indians.

National Press Day

The National Press Day is observed on 16th November every year. It was on this day the Press Council of India started functioning in 1956, as a moral watchdog to ensure that the press maintain high standards and is not fettered by any influence or threats.

How this announcement becomes relevant at the time when there have been series of attacks on Media?

PM has reiterated the government’s commitment of the freedom of the Press which is already enshrined in the constitution under the Fundamental Rights. But because of certain incidents and the propaganda, the perception sought to be created that the Freedom of press is under threat.

The only time when the freedom of Press had been curtailed in the country was when emergency was imposed in 1970’s. Since then all political parties whosoever been ruling the centre or for that matter in the State learnt a lesson not to impose any kind of censorship and also any sort of curtailment of the Freedom of Press.

So PM has categorically stated that the government is committed to freedom of Press in all forms and also highlighted the role of the Social Media. At the same time He has also talked about the responsibilities of the Press in highlighting the achievements of the country.

Media is trying to use the freedom of Press as a licence

When India is progressing it becomes incumbent upon the media also to highlight the achievements of the country. But unfortunately what is happening now is that the media is trying to use the freedom of press as a licence.

Debate in the Constitution Assembly when the FRs chapter particularly Freedom of Speech and expression under 19(1) (a) was being discussed, the B.R Ambedkar made important remark that the press and media must enjoy freedom from 19(1) (a) and there should not be any special mention about Freedom of Press. Because we will never know when the time may come that the media will use this particular reference of the article and misuse it.

Today unfortunately there is a section of media which is trying to enjoy more freedom than the freedom of free speech and expression enjoyed by the citizens. That is where the role of the media organization comes into play that the media should not use the Freedom of Speech as a licence where there is no accountability.

In Constitution there is one clause called 19(2) which imposes restriction on the citizens not to misuse their right to freedom of speech. It should not infringe upon the sovereignty, unity, integrity and security of the country. Hence that applies to media as well. Anything which is said in violation of these things will not come under the Freedom of Speech and expression.

Similarly it should not infringe somebody else’s freedom of Speech. Restrictions on Defamation, contempt of court are violated by a section of media today in the name of the Freedom of Press.

While we appreciate the government’s declaration on freedom of press, we must also have a kind of introspection on the media itself.

Role of media in Swachch Bharath initiative

PM also appreciated that the media has partnered him in the Swachch Bharath initiative and it wouldn’t have been a success without the participatory mechanism of the media particularly at the local district level.  He also appreciated the media with regard to dissemination and information gathering from the grass root.

We will never undermine the contribution of media for the upliftment of downtrodden or raising social issues.  But the actual problem will arise when it comes to crossing the limits and trying to set the agenda by a section of media.

Role of Press Council of India

National press day is because on this day Press council of India came into being.

There was a Press Commission which recommended the PCI. Since then there has been no Media Commission or Press commission.  Because today’s electronic media is not covered under the jurisdiction of Press Council of India.

PCI is teeth less organisation. It cannot take any punitive action. Another unfortunate fact of PCI is that the Electronic media came into being much later and therefore it is not covered.

What PM was trying to talk about the self-regulation is apparently in context of the electronic media. PCI jurisdiction is only confined to the Print media. That anomaly has to be rectified by setting up another Press Commission and where by the entire media industry should be given a relook. PCI should also be revised and re-enacted and it should also incorporate the electronic media.

Is there any move to form such an industry body? Are there any such efforts being made?

Electronic media has crossed the line and there is a continuous pressure on government to setup a regulatory mechanism. There is already a self-regulatory body of Electronic Media. But the limitation is that it comprises of its own people.

Today media industry is so powerful that don’t want any regulatory mechanism.

By using Freedom of Press media is trying to dictate agenda to the government and want to set the agenda in the society. So this is a high time that media does some introspection.

The participatory nature of Social media has also led to a lot of misconception.  How do we centre the right kind of input from social media considering it a vibrant media?

Social media can’t be controlled. It’s being used by anti-social elements and even the terrorist organisations. But in matured democracy like India we have to face this kind of problem.  We can’t shut down the social media or impose any censorship. This has to be addressed by all the stakeholders.

Media Commission which must have a look at the entire spectrum of Media industry including the salary structure of the working journalists.       

India world over is known as one of the largest democracy with a vibrant media. So it is important that the problems faced within the media should also be addressed.