‘Instead of real issues, it is focussing on non-issues such as fashion parades'
Chairman of the Press Council of India and former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju on Sunday said that it was time the media understood its responsibilities.
He was delivering the valedictory address at a three-day international conference on ‘Power of media in a globalising world' organised by the Delhi-based Institute of Objective Studies (IOS).
He began his address by posing the question: “Will the media support or oppose the public?” While the birth of journalism was to fight oppression, its priorities had changed significantly now.
“Poverty, unemployment, price rise, healthcare and so on are the problems that need to be discussed by the media. Rather than doing that, it is focussing on non-issues such as fashion parades, film stars and cricket. It is like what the Romans used to do: If you cannot give the people bread, give them the circus.”
The media was responsible for creating communal hatred because of its “irresponsible” reportage after the bomb blasts, Mr. Katju added. “The police are not competent to investigate, but media does not hesitate in portraying Muslims as terrorists,” he said. He said that the country was passing through a painful transitional phase as it moved from a feudal agricultural system to a modern industrial state. “As we go through this painful time, what is the role of media?” he asked.
Earlier, Z.M. Khan, secretary-general of the IOS, passed a resolution to set up an IOS Centre for Media and Regional Studies in Bangalore. The purpose of such a centre would be to correct biased reportage in the media, he said. Several journalists from other parts of the country and the world also took part in the discussions held over the last three days.
Some of the themes discussed included commercialisation of the media and its reportage of minorities.
Hisham Ahmed Awad Gaafar, a journalist from Egypt, spoke about how social media had helped in sparking and sustaining revolutions across the Arab world.
Meanwhile, journalist and filmmaker Paranjoy Guha Thakurta emphasised that there was an “urgent need” to set up a constitutional body to regulate media houses in the country.
He was presenting a paper on ‘Commercialisation of media' on Saturday.
The Press Council of India that was supposed to be an enforcer of media ethics had less powers than people thought.
“Leave sending wrong-doers to prison, it does not have the power to levy a fine of Rs. 10 on any journalist or media organisation. That is why we need a strong regulator on the lines of the Election Commission or Comptroller and Auditor-General,” he said.
Mr. Thakurta, who was a member of the PCI's subcommittee that investigated the ‘paid news' scandal, said that even 14 months after the report had been submitted, nothing had been done to contain the evil practice of paid news.
“Neither has the Government taken any steps to curb this practice of masquerading advertisement as news nor has the print media come up with a self-regulating mechanism. That is why there is a need for a constitutional mechanism to regulate media houses,” he said.