Press freedom is crucial but it should be used responsibly, says former CJI Anand

Union Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy on Tuesday rued the absence of diversity of opinion in Indian media despite the proliferation of media houses.

While he did not favour government control of the media, self-regulation had not succeeded either, the Minister said addressing a function here after awarding the International Press Institute-India Award to television anchor Karan Thapar.

Former Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand also articulated concerns at commercialisation and sensationalisation, besides the growing absence of objectivity in reportage.

According to Mr. Reddy, the media does not live up to the guiding principles of journalism — “comment is free, but facts are sacred” — laid down by the then Editor of The Guardian, C.P. Scott, over nine decades ago.

He acknowledged that social media did provide some relief from the “stark uniformity of print and television media.”

Lamenting the erosion of the role of the editor in a newspaper, the Minister said that while the other three pillars of democracy — executive, legislature and judiciary — might not be in the pink of health, they were in a better shape than the media.

Justice Anand sought to drive home the fact that while freedom of the press was crucial, it should be used responsibly. Apart from dwelling on the abuse of the freedom by the media, he warned against the rise of fanaticism and intolerance.

Referred to as “the hero of the day” by IPI-India chairman and Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ravi, “Devil’s Advocate” Karan Thapar acknowledged the contribution of his colleagues in his bagging the award. He joined the others in lamenting the state of the media. After an anecdotal flashback about his early days in journalism, Mr. Thapar admitted that today ratings were more important than content to Indian television channels.

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