Defence Minister A. K. Antony has called for efforts by both politicians and the media to free development from politics and prejudices.
Inaugurating the 48th annual conference of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, Mr. Antony said that he firmly believed in keeping politics out of development once bitter electoral battles were over. “I firmly believe that howsoever bitter the election battles, we should be able to rise above politics when it comes to development, especially at the local level,” he said and added that the media should guard against prejudices and vested interests using them to stall or delay development projects. “Kerala will not be able to progress if we don’t have development projects and our youth will have to migrate to the Gulf, America or Europe for employment,” he said.
The Defence Minister said the media had as crucial a role to play in Kerala’s development as the government and the people. There have been several instances of the media having played truant with development questions in Kerala. “These days there are many who are trying to feed the media with wrong news. Journalists should not put out all the news they are fed with. Every piece of information should be put to test for their veracity and the intention behind them,” he added.
Mr. Antony said that journalists were fully justified in trying to expose corruption, but pointed out that the media scene had undergone major changes over the years. During the time when Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai and Kesari A. Balakrishna Pillai ruled the roost as journalists, journalism was a public-spirited endeavour.
Swadeshabhimani had Vakkom Moulavi as newspaper owner, who gave him absolute freedom in his work. The situation was no longer so. Mass media had become an industry involving investments running into hundreds of crores of rupees. The kind of freedom journalists enjoyed at the time of Swadeshabhimani and Kesari were inconceivable in such a situation. There was still considerable scope for journalists to expose corruption, malfeasance and nepotism in public life. The attempt of journalists should be to discharge their duties with a clear sense of justice, he said.
Mr. Antony fully endorsed the journalists’ demand for an early revision of wages and said that he would put his entire weight behind the demand. He came down heavily on the practice of contract appointments in the media industry and said the situation of journalists in the electronic media was pitiable in large parts of the country. Those working in the electronic media had to put up with untimely working hours and low wages. This situation can be rectified only by bringing journalists in the electronic media under the definition of ‘working journalists’, he said.
Offering felicitations, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Vijayakumar called for an urgent amendment to the Working Journalists’ Act of 1956 to bring journalists in the electronic media under its ambit. Journalists, he said, would be able to function without fear or favour only if they received better wages.
Earlier, Organising committee chairperson and Thiruvananthapuram Mayor K. Chandrika welcomed the gathering. K. Sampath, MP, Varkala Kahar, MLA, Palode Ravi, former MLA, S. R. Sakthidharan, Kerala Press Academy Chairman, among others, attended the function.