At a meeting with senior journalists and editors on October 10, 2011, newly-appointed Chairman of the Press Council of India, Markandey Katju, warned, “If media proves incorrigible, harsh measures may be required”. Such measures could include imposing heavy fines on defaulters, stopping government advertisements for them and even suspending their licence.
He added that poverty and unemployment were major issues facing the country that needed to be highlighted and not the wife of some film actor getting pregnant. “But these days, it makes big news,” Justice Katju lamented.
He observed, “In the Lakme India Fashion Week event, there were 512 accredited journalists covering the event in which models were displaying cotton garments, while the men and women who grew that cotton were killing themselves at a distance of an hour’s flight from Nagpur in the Vidarbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists locally.” He said that the media was behaving like Marie Antoinette and asked media to desist from planting “mischievous” news. He faulted media reports citing e-mail claims of the Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkat-ul-jihad-e-Islam for the recent Delhi High Court blast.
“Now, an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and publishing in newspapers the next day, the tendency is to brand all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb-throwers,” he said.
He, however, was in the favour of media when he asked the Government to defer implementation of its new television channel guidelines, under which licence renewal could be denied if a channel violated the Programme and Advertisement Code more than five times. His statement was welcomed by representatives of the broadcast news media.
But there were also quite a few editors who did not agree with some of his views on media. Pankaj Pachauri, Managing Editor, NDTV, said that there were some good apples and some bad apples in the market. “We should not put these in the same bag, but you are painting the whole media with the same brush,” he said.
“You are an expert on the law and the Constitution, but you have to educate yourself on media,” pointed out Mail Today Editor Bharat Bhushan, who added, “We are not schoolchildren to be harangued like this… Don’t start off on the wrong foot.”
Rajeev Shukla, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, who was there from the Government’s side, remarked that media too had its own Laksman Rekha and added that everybody had to adhere to that.