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I&B minister Anurag Thakur cautions media against clickbait journalism, fake news and paid news

It is for the media to reflect and self-introspect on how to immunise itself from the virus of Infodemic which continues to inflict malicious disinformation on societies across geographies, Thakur said at PCI event on National Press Day

Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur inaugurating the National Press Day Celebrations along with MoS Dr L Murugan, Chairperson, PCI Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Journalist Swapan Dasgupta

The Press Council of India celebrated the National Press Day on the theme “The Media’s Role in Nation Building”

The event was held at SCOPE convention centre in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Singh Thakur was the chief guest at the event and he released the “Norms of Journalistic Conduct, 2022”.

Celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav marking 75th year of India’s independence, the dignitaries deliberated on the topic ‘the Role of Media in Nation Building’ to appreciate, analyse and ascertain the plausible ways that may pave the way towards preserving the standards of Indian media which is celebrated as the fourth pillar of the Democracy. 

National Press Day - the 16th of November – is symbolic of a free and responsible press in India. This was the day on which the Press Council of India started functioning as a moral watchdog to ensure that not only did the press maintain the high standards expected from this powerful medium but also that it was not fettered by the influence or threats of any extraneous factors.

Delivering the inaugural address, Thakur began by complimenting Swapan Dasgupta for his erudite views, expressed eloquently, on the theme of today’s deliberations – “The Media’s Role in Nation Building”. He said, “This is a solemn occasion to pay our humble tribute to stalwarts who made the Press a powerful voice and a worthy Fourth Pillar of our democracy.” He added, “The intimate involvement of towering leaders of our struggle for Independence with the Press propelled them to ensure Freedom of the Press was enshrined through constitutional provisions. The birth of the Press Council of India came much later, but the impulse was the same: To ensure democracy is safeguarded and strengthened.”

The Union Minister further said that “regrettably, within a decade of the Press Council of India coming into existence as a Lighthouse for Press Freedom, it was abolished during the Emergency along with the suspension of Fundamental Rights. It is a matter of pride for me that the council was revived through a fresh Act of Parliament steered by none other than LK Advani Ji as Minister for Information and Broadcasting. As a nation we have not looked back since then, though there have been setbacks by way of unacceptable restrictions like those imposed by 66A of the IT Act. It was justifiably struck down by the Supreme Court. Over the last 75 years, as democracy has flourished in our great nation, so has media.”

The Union Minister added that “journalists in metro cities must honour counterparts in Darbhanga, Puri, Saharanpur, Bilaspur, Jalandhar, Kochi and so on - your friends should be honoured and given credit. The story should matter not the location or station! Paying off stringers well, awarding them and improving their confidence is important for a vibrant media landscape. Further, keeping pace with the world, Press Council needs to emphasise the promotion of diverse views and protection of women in news, along with transgender representation.”

The Union Minister further said that “as with all things that expand with speed, the expansion of media in India merits a cautionary note. Much of the media governance structure is self-regulatory. But self-regulatory does not mean licence to err and err intentionally. That would erode media credibility. Bias and prejudice must be abjured. It is for media to reflect and self-introspect on how to immunise itself from the virus of Infodemic which continues to inflict malicious disinformation on societies across geographies. A related twin-concern is that of paid news and fake news. Similarly, clickbait journalism, made fashionable by social media, contributes nothing to media credibility; it contributes even less to nation-building. Media must not allow the space for responsible, fair and balanced journalism to be occupied by others.”

The Minister went on to add that “Our Government believes in enabling media to overcome these and other challenges. The recently amended IT Rules, the revised rules for uplinking and downlinking of television feed, and the proposed simplified Press registration process are some initiatives towards that end. We have actively sought to remove any deficit in the flow of official information. All information and data are now available in multiple languages on real time basis on the PIB website. We are doing our part in debunking fake news with PIB’s fact-check service to prevent both circulation and amplification of malicious disinformation. In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision, we have extended all assistance to small and medium newspapers and journals, as well as newspapers printed in Sanskrit and Indian languages like Bodo, Dogri, Khasi, Konkani, Maithili, Manipuri, Mizo, etc. To remove any sense of neglect and discrimination, we have reached out to media in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-east.”

The Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Dr L Murugan also addressed the gathering. He said, “November 16th is a symbolic day when Press Council of India started working to ensure the highest standards of journalism with freedom and responsibility without any fear or favour. Emergency was dark days for press and we cannot forget that those who wrote against the government were kept in jail for years. Calling the media voice of the voiceless, Dr Murugan said, “press is the 4th pillar of democracy and it is not just news but it also ensures that the government policies and schemes reach the intended beneficiaries”. He further said that “we have entered the “Amrit kaal” and are marching fast towards becoming a progressive and prosperous nation and the government is working together with all with the aim to make India a developed nation.”

Dasgupta said “the internet and the social media has changed the entire media landscape. Mainstream media, such as the newspaper and television, have seen a significant decline all over the world. Globally, that has fallen by as much as 11%. Mainstream media no longer has the monopoly of providing news.  Dasgupta further said “niche journalism is on the rise and people are looking for news such as health, science, medicine, sports other than politics dominating the mainstream media.” He also said that digital media crosses national boundaries. “As India’s strategic footprint, including commercial and economic footprint, increases across the world, unless we can complement that with the media Made in India, based in India’, carrying Indian values which can take it forward, we would be somewhere lacking in our entire quality of that approach,” he added.

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