Underlining that there should be no government interference in the functioning of the press, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said any external interference can create havoc and advised self-regulation by making appropriate changes with time. Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of Press Council of India (PCI), Modi also quoted Mahatma Gandhi to support his assertions seeking self-regulation by the press.
“Mahatma Gandhi had said uncontrolled writing can create huge problems but he had also said that external interference would wreak havoc. Controlling it (press) externally cannot be imagined… Government should not do any interference. It is true that self-introspection is not easy… It is the responsibility of the PCI and those associated with the press to see to it that what appropriate changes you can make with time. Things do not change from external control,” he said.
The Prime Minister also expressed concern over the recent killings of journalists, saying it was very “painful” and a “most dangerous” way of suppressing truth. His remarks came against the backdrop of the murder of two journalists in Bihar.
He said unlike the past when journalists had ample time to make corrections, there is no time now because of the fast nature of electronic and digital media.
Recalling the Kandahar hijack in 1999, he said round-the-clock reportage by news channels of angry reactions of the families of passengers in the Indian Airlines flight emboldened the terrorists because they thought they can get anything from the Indian government with this kind of public pressure. The episode set off introspection in the media, he said, which later came with norms for the coverage of such incidents.
“After the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, another moment of introspection came yet the matter is still incomplete,” he said, adding, “I believe mistakes are committed by us and by you… the media should not be assessed by its mistakes.”
“Till the time there is a section of responsible people, who want to remove the weaknesses and make it better, I believe it is a positive effort in this sector and it should continue,” he said.
Modi said that when Emergency was declared in 1975 , the Press Council was shut and it was reborn when the Morarji Desai government came to power in 1977.
He said that people in Press Council should also think of how to improve things. He said even the government can be told how to improve its communication.
“Unfortunately even the government sometimes indulges in selective leaking to favoured journalists,” he said, adding if there are some discussions in Press Council regarding this, they should be put forward to the government.
Modi said there should be communication to improve the institutions for which the people should benefit. He said that media should encourage healthy competition like ranking states on their performance in the area of ‘swacchta’ or cleanliness.
(With PTI inputs)