Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu Sunday said the government is committed to the freedom of press but the media, while disseminating news, should “keep in mind interests of society and nation first”.
His remarks come in the wake of criticism over his ministry’s decision to take NDTV India off air for 24 hours on November 9 for allegedly revealing “strategically sensitive information” during the course of its coverage of anti-terror operations at the Pathankot airbase earlier this year.
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Speaking at an orientation programme for Urdu journalists, organised by the Telangana Union of Working Journalists, Naidu said: “A big discussion is going on in the country that there should be freedom of press. It should compulsorily be there and the government is committed to this. But there is a need to think. That’s my view.”
“Journalists are also citizens. They should remember freedom of expression is best utilised only when the value of such freedom is fully appreciated. When this freedom is not exercised judiciously, our existing laws provide for necessary interventions. We are not thinking of any new restrictions on any media. But the government expects all stakeholders to be responsible in using different platforms,’’ he said.
“When broadcasting news, keep in mind interests of society and nation first. The news you are disseminating should not promote clashes between groups, religions or create unrest in society. The news should not cause harm to the nation’s interests. There should be self-restraint,’’ he said.
He said information with confirmation is the “best ammunition”. “Information can fight corruption, inequality, discrimination, oppression. Information can give you entitlement. Through information, people will be empowered,” he said.
“First give the news and then have the debate. But what is happening is even TV debates try to mix both the things and then they argue and try to teach us also,” he said. “News should be news, views should be separate. Of late, this tendency of combining news with views is creating distortion.”
Underlining the importance of media credibility, Naidu said: “The important thing in media is credibility. Credibility is very important but is now missing in most of the media today, which is unfortunate. We must always work for credibility.”
“Be nearer to truth and keep away from sensationalism. But what is happening in the electronic media is sensationalism,” he said.
Stating that there are some regulations that media should not breach — something which is anti-national; not propagate against the interest of the country aspects like obscenity, vulgarity and encouraging violence. He said the electronic media and cinema should seriously think how to avoid vulgarity, obscenity and violence.
On social media, Naidu said: “Social media is spontaneous and interactive. Such a medium is both an opportunity and a challenge. We believe people will take advantage of social media, expect them to make judicious use of it in the larger national and individual good. Self-regulation of the content by media is the best way to control violation of socio-cultural and national values and ethos.”
Calling for greater promotion of Urdu and regional languages, he said: “Urdu is a sweet language and it has also enriched Indian culture over the centuries. But unfortunately, some people have linked it with religion in between. Time has come. We have to encourage our regional languages… as a language, Urdu should also be encouraged.”
He said plans were afoot to increase the time of Urdu bulletin aired on Doordarshan.— With PTI