The press should use its freedom in a responsible manner and be credible as it has an important role to play in democracy, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism for 2011 and 2012, Mahajan said, “The media is considered the fourth pillar of democracy and we expect as much responsibility and transparency from it as from the other three pillars. A free press and a fearless press is in the interests of both society and the nation.”
She said that in a fast-changing world, journalists must provide the people with information to make them both aware and strong. “The dissemination of information is the most powerful tool in strengthening the awareness of people,” the Speaker said.
Mahajan felt parliamentary proceedings were not always given adequate coverage and said that she had observed that on several occasions the media did not highlight high-level and important debates.
In fact, at times, the reporting, she said, was distorted. “I laud the media for highlighting issues of corruption and nepotism but along with this I want that the media should also focus on interesting and important debates that take place in Parliament. If the media does not give this adequate coverage then we can’t reap the benefits of democracy,” she said.
Mahajan presented the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism to 59 journalists from broadcast and print media under different categories. The Journalist of the Year for 2012 went to Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV 24X7.
Surbhi Khyati of The Indian Express won the award for Investigative Reporting (Print) for 2011 for her series exposing the corruption in the National Rural Health Mission in Uttar Pradesh. The Investigative Reporting (Print) award for 2012 went to Mehul Srivastava, Andrew Macaskill and Adi Narayan of Bloomberg News for their story on how malnutrition affects India’s children. The Sanjiv Sinha Memorial Award for Excellence in Reporting (Print) went to Appu Esthose Suresh of The Indian Express.
Among those present in the packed hall at the ITC Maurya Sheraton in Delhi included Union ministers Prakash Javadekar, Najma Heptullah and Maneka Gandhi, BJP leaders Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Satish Upadhyaya and Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Jitin Prasada.
Observing that the Ramnath Goenka awards were highly respected, Mahajan said, “I never met Ramnath Goenka personally, everyone is familiar with his courage. He took up issues of the common people, society and politics and unflinchingly stood his ground.” She said that Goenka had given direction to the media during the Emergency.
Viveck Goenka, chairman of The Indian Express Group, said 2011 and 2012, for which the awards were being given, were pivotal years for the country which saw the birth of an anti-corruption movement, its steady evolution and often devolution into a political party.
“We saw how the power of one leadership can be frittered away and how the power of another can be gained. More relevant to us is that we heard noise when we heard news, noise that even our remote controls could not control and too often we were looking for the wisdom to make out the difference. That is why today is so special because the men and women who we cheer today are those who helped us understand this difference, who covered stories with their ears to the ground and heard the news amid the noise,” he said.
Goenka stressed the importance of institutions in facilitating good journalism. “In our frantic count of how many followers we have on social media and amid the pressure to collapse an argument into 20 seconds we tend to forget that good journalism needs a good ecosystem of individuals and institutions,” he said.
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