Media should guard against sensationalism while tracking issues related to government policies and decisions and maintain a ‘lakshman rekha’, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said.
Speaking at an event organised by Press Council of India to mark National Press Day, Javadekar, who till recently was the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, said credibility of the media was at stake because of paid news and it needed to seriously tackle the issue.
“It is important for the media to know the process behind taking any decision on any policy. On what basis has the government or any authority taken a decision is news and it should be tracked. But there should a ‘laxman rekha’ of that as well,” Javadekar said.
He said the media should not act in a way that it “scares” officials from taking decisions for fear of scrutiny.
“There should not be paparazzi in the name of transparency. Officers are scared to take decisions because of this. They say, it will come in the media, then RTI queries, the civil society, then CAG and PIL will follow. Officers should not find it a hurdle, but instead (media should) enable him to do good work. This is what the limitation is,” the MoS Environment & Forest and Climate Change said.
“Sense of proportion and the whole context” are two important aspects which should be “behind the laxman rekha” when media tracks an issue, he said.
Referring to paid news, Javadekar said the credibility of the media was at stake because of paid news and newspapers should give a thought to this.
“In paid news, you are trying to ensure victory of one candidate on the first page and ensuring victory of another candidate on the last page. So, this reflects the credibility of the newspaper,” he said.
On the issue of cross-media ownership, Javadekar said the debate should be done within the fraternity.
“Whether the medium of information goes in the hands of a cartel because its a responsible part of the whole democratic process… The government may form its opinion later, but there should be debate within the society and also what other countries have done should also be debated.”
Javadekar said, “Freedom entails responsibility and accountability. It (Media) has to be free, but that freedom has to be with responsibility.”
Newly-appointed Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said journalism should not be treated as a profession, but a mission.
“Journalism should not be treated as a profession. Journalists are soldiers because they protect the nation from within and show a path to the people.
“This is not a profession. I think those who align themselves to journalism…it is a way of living life in which truth is brought before the nation…a soldier who brings truth before the nation and maintains transparency,” he said.
The Olympian-turned-politician said the the new government was all for ensuring the freedom of press.
“There should be no commission, but only mission. The government is for freedom of press. The way you (the media) think, the government thinks in a similar way. The fourth pillar is as important as the other three pillars,” he said.
Highlighting the importance of freedom of the press, PCI Chairman Markandey Katju said it was through the media that the public got to known about various issues.
“Real democracy depends on informed citizenry and for this, role of press becomes very important because it is only through the press that the public gets to know about various issues and events in the country,” he said.
Katju said without the media, people alone will be unable to form rational opinion which is necessary in a democracy.
Former Chief Justice of India M N Venkatachaliah, who delivered a lecture on ‘Transparency in Public Affairs: The Role of the Press’ on the occasion, said the standard of journalism was “falling”.
“The press itself occasionally is seen to be arbitrary and it has shown scant regard for truth at times. It is not only guilty of bad taste and inaccuracy, but has shown that it can be partisan, reckless and vicious.
“But this is the price a liberal society has to pay for their indispensable and highly-valued commodity. The freedom of the press is a highly-costly commodity. But we can’t escape that, we have to pay the price,” Venkatachaliah said.
“If press has to be free then it must be fair. The only way to ensure freedom of press is to treat the power of the press as public trust,” he added.