Saying that the spirit of tolerance is what defines us as Indians, President Pranab Mukherjee, delivering the second the Ramanth Goenka Lecture in New Delhi on Thursday, said there is room for the argumentative Indian, not intolerant Indian. In a speech that lasted for nearly 30 minutes, the President called on the media to play a meaningful role in a vibrant democracy like India. “Media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and public. It must raise and create awareness and hold public institution accountable to all its actions or inactions,” he said.
Initiated by The Express Group last year and dedicated to its founder in the 25th year of his passing, The Ramnath Goenka Lecture, in the spirit of the founder and the newspaper, aims to enrich and shape public discourse through the power of ideas.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s Ramnath Goenka Lecture highlights:
6.48 pm: Jaspal Bindra: “His (President) lucky number is 13, which is considered inauspicious. He use to live in a bungalow for several years that had the number 13. In fact, he is the 13th president of India.”
6.45 pm: Executive Chairman of The Centrum Group, Jaspal Bindra is delivering the vote of thanks.
6.43 pm: President Mukherjee concludes his speech.
6.41 pm: “The question that faces all of us, including the media, is whether we will chose to define ourselves as a nation of vibrant or partisan views,” President Mukherjee said.
6.38 pm: “Complex issues are being reduced to binary opposites, resulting in polarisation,” President Pranab Mukherje said.
6.33 pm: On “alternative facts”, President Mukherjee said: Fact-checking plays one of the significant roles in the media. When opinions are deeply divided, objectivity is at a premium. Facts must be never sacrificed to elevate opinion into truth.
On paid news: Concentration of media power in few hands is dangerous. Objectivity has to be resorted to regain public confidence, he said.
On media growth: “Dumbing down news to attract more is another consequence of the phenomenal growth of the media,” he said.
6.30 pm: On the media, President Mukherjee said: Asking questions is healthy, it is fundamental to our democratic society. There should always be room for the argumentative Indian and not intolerant Indian. Media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and public. It must raise and create awareness and hold public institution accountable to all its actions or inactions.
6.26 pm: As I have said on many occasions earlier, discussion and dissension is crucial for a vibrant democracy. Spirit of tolerance is what makes us Indians. I have always believed that the bedrock of Indian civilisation has been its pluralism and its social, cultural, linguistic and racial diversity: President Mukherjee.
6.23 pm: President Mukherjee on technology: “The average citizen has been truly empowered in their ability to speak out and find out…The downside is the sheer scale and volume of data and information means that available today remains unfiltered and unmidiated…in many cases even unchecked.”
Citing the example of US and France, President Mukherjee said that “the personal communications of the leaders were freely made available for everyone.”
“Information must be checked, rechecked and contextualised,” he said.
“When so many voices speak through many mediums, then many are drowned out in the cacophony. This is when the role of journalism comes in.”
6.19 pm: President Pranab Mukherjee: “Democracy without a free press is like a blank piece of paper. His (Ramnath Goenka) ideas must be cast in stone and followed by all journalists who love democracy and freedom. I am happy to say that the Indian Express has managed to maintain the standard under Viveck Goenka in its fairness and pursuit of truth. In fact, the values pursued by Ramnath ji were relevant then and are relevant today as well.”
6.16 pm: President Mukherjee begins his address: “It is indeed a privilege for me to the deliver the RNG Lecture. When I think about the Express, I think about Ramnath Goenka.
“…In a blank editorial published by the IE during the Emergency under the leadership of RNG was perhaps the strongest protest against censorship in India. It spoke more loudly than any thing else would have.”
6.12 pm: Indian Express Executive Director presents President Mukherjee with a memento and photograph of Ramnath Goenka.
6.10 pm: Chairman of the Express group Viveck Goenka delivers keynote address. “We are indeed very privileged this evening,” he begins.
6.00 pm: The President has arrived. He will be delivering the lecture shortly.
— P Vaidyanathan Iyer (@iyervaidy) May 25, 2017
The first Ramnath Goenka Lecture was delivered by then Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan. In his lecture, he spoke on India’s engagement with the global economy, and how best to manage it in these turbulent times. You can read edited excerpts of his lecture, here.
If you’re on Twitter, do tweet using #RNGLecture