Bengaluru: In a bid to ensure that the Congress’ voice is heard in an environment where there is a growing perception that the media is muzzled, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah quoted former prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who once said, “Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.”
Speaking at the release of the commemorative issue of National Herald, to mark 70 years of Indian Independence, Mr Siddaramaiah recalled that Nehru had launched National Herald in 1938 and resigned from the board of directors when he became part of the government. “He did this in the interest of editorial freedom,” he contended.
Claiming that certain Constitutional values were being challenged in the country today, senior Congress leader and director of The Associated Journals, Oscar Fernandes maintained that India was at crucial crossroads and institutions like the media had an important role to play as its conscience-keeper. He said the new publication, which was once the voice of the country’s freedom movement, was being revived as a multi-media news outlet after its temporary suspension. “The Hindi and Urdu sister publications are being revived as well and they will all have a strong digital and print presence,” he added.
Ansari: Self-censorship bad for media
Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Monday came out in strong support of a free media , saying it was not only beneficial but also necessary in a free society and warned that if the freedom of the press was attacked, it could jeopardise the rights of the people themselves.
Delivering his presidential address at the release of a commemorative issue of National Herald, Mr Ansari warned the media against self-censorship when faced with unjust restrictions and threat of attack as it could have the opposite effect and aid in the covering up of abuses and foster frustration in marginalised communities.
But while supporting freedom of the press, he also took a dig at the media saying, “In this age of ‘post-truths’, and ‘alternative facts’, where advertorials and response features edge out editorials, they would do well to recall Nehru’s vision of the press playing its role of a watchdog in democracy and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism.” Underlining that in an open society like India’s, it was necessary to have a responsible press to hold power to account, he added, “This is why freedom of press under Article 19 (1)(A) is subject only to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state and public order.”
He recalled that the Supreme Court had held that “freedom of speech and of the press is the Ark of the Covenant of Democracy.” “Our Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the state to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large. The media, if it is to remain true to its calling, has to do likewise,” he added....