Today, more than ever, the media must stand up to fear, seek information and speak out, Vice President Hamid Ansari said on Friday stressing that press has an important responsibility, particularly in a democratic polity, to hold power to account.
The media should “tell the truth to the powers that be, even if the powers that be have a habit of not liking this,” he said while invoking Mahatama Gandhi.
“Today, more than ever, the media must stand up to fear, seek information and speak out. It must not hesitate to tell the powers their errors in commission and omission,” Ansari said at a function after giving away the C H Mohammed Koya National Journalism Awards 2017, instituted in the memory of former chief minister of Kerala.
“It is a fundamental function of the media and a basic requirement for the functioning of a healthy democracy,” he said A healthy, vibrant democracy not only creates the space for a free media, but rather it needs an impartial and independent media for its survival. Journalism as a professional calling is more than a mere job, it is a public good, he said.
“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said on the eve of our independence, ‘Freedom and power bring responsibility’. “The media has an important responsibility, particularly in a democratic polity, to tell the truth to the powers that be, even if the powers that be have a habit of not liking this,” he said.
Ansari said Koya believed in using the media to bring about social awareness and change and his role in advancing the educational infrastructure in Kerala as education Minister is well-known.
“In this era of ‘post-truths’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge-out editorials, we would do well to recall one of the greatest journalists that India has ever produced, and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism,” Ansari said, referring to Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhiji was associated with six journals, and for two very influential weeklies, he was the editor. He published no advertisement, at the same time he did not want his newspapers to run at a loss.
He had gained considerable experience in South Africa, where he had taken over the editorial role of the ‘Indian Opinion’ in 1904 and published it in English, Tamil and Gujarati, sometimes running the press himself.
For Gandhiji, the three objectives of the press were—
One, to understand the popular feeling and give expression to it; to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments, and to fearlessly expose popular defects, he said.
“We need a responsible press to hold power to account.
“That is why our founding fathers enshrined the freedom of press in the Constitution under the rubric of Article 19 (1)(A), subject only to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence,” Ansari said.