Media Must Reflect the Aspirations of the Voiceless, Says Former High Court Judge
Media must always take the side of public and give top priority to reflect the aspirations of the voiceless, said M. Satyanarayana Murthy, former Judge of A.P. High Court. He was speaking in a seminar on ‘Media: Responsibility towards People and Government’ organised by Andhra Pradesh Union of working Journalists at Vijayawada on 8 October. The seminar was a prelude to 10th Plenary of Indian Journalists Union (IJU) scheduled to be held at Chennai on 29-31 October 2022. The former High Court judge who attended the seminar as Chief Guest spoke at length on various aspects of journalism and related legal issues by quoting from several judgements of high courts and the Supreme Court. He said journalists should have profound sense of responsibility toward society and must always remember that they are answerable to public and public only. They are not spokespersons of any political party or organisation.
Justice Murthy lamented that of late the tendency of writing news stories without adequate proofs was on the rise resulting in public losing faith in the fourth estate. This tendency is not good for the society, he said. Even investigative journalism is largely lacking in credibility. If journalists do not follow good practices of journalism while writing investigative news stories prestige of media will be severely affected, he opined and added that only those journalists who act responsibly would be recognised by the society.
While agreeing that journalists have been facing security issues Justice Murthy said that in recent times even judges were being targeted on social media platforms. Journalists must have minimum knowledge of relevant laws otherwise they will land in trouble. If the reporting is accurate without any bias there will be no problem, he said.
K. Sreenivas Reddy, President, IJU expressed concern that the Central and State governments were resorting to methods that go against the media freedom. Though the role media is key to the well being of the society journalists working in the field are facing safety issues,, he deplored. Governments are frowning upon unpalatable news stories and cartoons published in news papers. Journalists are increasingly being harassed and in some cases they are branded as antinational and sedition charges are pressed. Branding a journalist as an antinational has become easy as there is no definition for the term antinational, Sreenivas Reddy commented.
Further, sources of information are being dried up with the ruling dispensation choosing to impose an unstated gag order on officials and other functionaries. As a result, media is unable to tell what is wrong and what is right to the governments and this does not augur well either for the media or for the country, Sreenivas Reddy said. He recalled the recent statement of the United Nations Organisation that journalism was among the most dangerous professions in the world. Sreenivas Reddy called for unity among journalist community in order to wage a collective battle to safeguard the right to free speech and media freedom and also fight for the rights and welfare of journalists. All these issues will be deliberated upon at length in the coming 10th Plenary of IJU at Chennai he said.
Dr. G. Anitha, Head of the Department of Journalism, Acharya Nagarjuna University said the welfare of journalists was the one issue that has been receiving scant attention in India. Efforts must be initiated to evolve a structure of welfare for journalists, she said and added that to everybody has a right to decent living. Coming to the general media scenario in the country it is alarming that most of the media outlets are being controlled by very few people, Dr. Anitha said. It is also a fact that editorial independence is becoming a rare commodity in present day media, she rued. Degeneration of value based systems and lack of job security for working journalists are some of the problems that are plaguing the media, she opined. Dr. Anitha strongly advocated for the establishment of a permanent system to ensure the welfare of journalists and payment of respectable minimum wages.
She was of the opinion that in spite of all these problems and fourth estate in the country is strong enough and that is why the country is safe.. While elaborating on the importance of sources for writing good reports Dr. Anitha lamented that the establishment was systematically neutralizing the sources. She also spoke on the ill effects of social media trends on the health of society and said that some kind of control on social media was required. The seminar was chaired by I. V. Subba Rao, President, APUWJ and Chandu Janardhan, APUWJ General Secretary, Ambati Anjaneyulu, Vice President, IJU and D.Somsunder, IJU National Executive Member also addressed the gathering.