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Freedom of press comes with responsibilities

22-May-2012
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Freedom of press comes with responsibilities

The issue whether journalists need regulation is a widely debated one. There are equal number of supporters of freedom of the press and those who support regulatory bodies to keep the media in check.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, President, Foundation for Media Professionals India, reflected this very divide when he raised the concern of whether self-regulation is adequate or some definitive guidelines are the need of the hour.

According to Vinod Mehta, Editorial Chairman, Outlook there are quite a few newspaper proprietors who believe that media under siege is a passing phase and that they would continue doing good business.

Mehta maintained that freedom of the press is in danger as there is no forum that addresses cases wherein somebody complains against the press and action has been taken. “Media should be judged by media professionals,” he stressed.

According to him, media should show some concern and respect for public opinion. “If the public does not support us, then we are in a serious trouble,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Fali Nariman, Distinguished Constitutional Jurist and Former Rajya Sabha member, pointed out that the freedom that the print and electronic media in India enjoys are not enjoyed anywhere else, except perhaps in the US but certainly not in any country in the South Asian region.

He added, “There is simply no protection against misreporting, except the internal setting up of standards and their supervision by some independent authority.”

According to him, journalists of print and electronic media in India are “most extraordinarily privileged bunch of people”, who are considered absolutely indispensable under the Constitution and the country’s laws, “not because of yourselves, but because of those you claim to represent”.

On a different note, Sanjaya Baru, Former Media Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, lamented that India lacked good journalism rather than regulations. “The standard of professionalism in Indian media is on the decline,” he added.

Baru pointed out that the entire media industry was up in arms when the government attempted to regulate media in the last one decade. Concerns were raised about threat to the freedom of the press and it was decided to have self-appointed bodies to regulate media. “However, the Press Council of India has no teeth, and time has come for media to generate its own resources and come up with its own body to handle all such issues,” Baru stressed.

Pranjoy Guha Thakurta, Vinod Mehta, Fali Nariman and Sanjaya Baru were speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Do journalist need regulation?’ It was organised by the Foundation For Media Professionals in New Delhi on May 21, 2012.

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