Returning to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting after five years, this time as a Cabinet minister, Prakash Javadekar Friday underlined the importance of free speech and freedom of the press in the country, calling these the “essence of democracy”.
Within hours of the allocation of portfolios, Javadekar assumed charge of the I&B Ministry as Union Minister — in 2014, he was I&B Minister of State (Independent Charge) for six months — and told reporters that “press freedom is the essence of democracy”, and that he and his government “not only recognise it” but also “cherish it”.
Appreciating the role of the Indian media, he said, “As we all know, the media also knows, every freedom comes with responsibilities… the media already carries out and works in this responsible, free atmosphere, and will continue to do so in the days to come.”
Because this, he said, “will strengthen democracy”.
Recalling the Emergency, Javadekar said that only once “in the history of free India” was press freedom “curtailed”. It was in 1975, he said, “during the Emergency brought by the then Congress government”. He called it a “black period for the media” with “everyday censorship and complete curtailment of press freedom”.
He said he had “fought” against the Emergency and its curbs on the free press under the leadership of Jaya Prakash Narayan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. “We fought on two or three main issues, one of which was press freedom. I am very happy it was restored, our struggle was successful,” he said, adding he was jailed for 16 months.
Stating that he was “very happy to get charge” of the I&B Ministry, he praised outgoing minister Rajyavardhan Rathore who “conducted the affairs of the I&B very efficiently”. He also appreciated the work done by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley, both of whom held the I&B portfolio at different times in the first Modi government. He said he was “very proud of the legacy” and hoped to do justice to it. He said the “mission” of the media and his Ministry was the same — “to inform people”.