Stating that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) is “archaic and irrelevant”, former Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Saturday suggested that the Act needs a re-look in light of current “realities and norms”.
Speaking at the B G Verghese Memorial Lecture on ‘Journalism in times of strident nationalism’, he said “strident nationalism has no hesitation in transcending and transgressing individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It therefore has to be guarded against.” Asked about warning to invoke NSA against news organisations, he said, “The Official Secrets Act, in my understanding, is — like so many other laws we have — archaic and irrelevant in this age when the same thing is available in authentic form elsewhere. It is simply used when you want to make an example out of somebody.”
Stating that those who suffer as a result of it are scholars and the public, he said, “There are so many things that are still classified and yet they are public knowledge; they are published elsewhere. So who is the loser in this game? Our own scholars, our own public.”
On development of the media, he said, “Despite its impressive numbers and diversity, phenomena like cross-media ownership, paid news and fake news, the declining role of editors and editorial freedom do raise questions regarding objectivity and credibility. Besides, an unstated major premise is the pervasive national mood of strident nationalism.”
At the event, Priyanka Dubey of BBC India was awarded the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist for 2018. She was given the award for taking up “burning and complex social and political issues of our times, helping uncover the reality underlying them, showing them to be layered, complex, and variegated,” according to a statement by The Media Foundation, which gives the award.