AMN / Bengaluru
The Vice President of India Hamid Ansari today said that an open society needed a responsible press to hold power to account. “A free media is not only beneficial but necessary in a free society”, he said.
“If press freedom is attacked, it will result in the jeopardising of citizen’s rights. When faced with unjust restrictions and the threat of attack, self-censorship in the media can have the opposite effect, aiding the covering up of abuses and fostering frustration in marginalized communities”, he said while addressing an event to launch the commemorative edition of National Herald, in Bengaluru, today.
Vice President said that in this age of ‘post-truths’, and ‘alternative facts’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge-out editorials, we would do well to recall Nehru’s vision of the press playing its role of a watchdog in democracy and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism.
“The history of journalism in India is closely linked to the history of our freedom struggle. Indian journalists were not mere news providers. They were freedom fighters and social activists, who fought not only to rid India of foreign rule but also to rid our society of social prejudices, casteism, communalism and discrimination” he stressed.
The Vice President said that Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned a free, unfettered and honest press and he watched over the interests of media persons in independent India. The Working Journalists Act, which tried to give a degree of protection to journalists, to ensure freedom of press, was largely his doing, he added.
“Our Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the State to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large”, he added.
Speaking on the occasion Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi accused the Narendra Modi government of muzzling the media saying journalists are not allowed to write what they want to express.
He said, thousands of journalists in the country were not being allowed to write what they want.
He said, the power of truth is being completely replaced by the truth of power. Anybody who attempts to stand for the truth is being pushed aside, he said. Mr Gandhi said, Dalits were being beaten up, minorities were frightened, while journalists and bureaucrats are being threatened.
Quoting a Soviet poet, he said, when truth is being silenced, then the truth becomes a lie. This is what the government is trying to do. It is forcing everything into silence, he alleged.
Mr Gandhi said, the National Herald had a strong spirit that it will not be silenced. He exalted journalists to speak the truth, and not silent or scared.
The Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, K. Siddaramaiah and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.