Free or fair

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/17/2018 12:25:56 PM IST

 Each year on November 16, National Press Day is observed throughout the country to commemorate the establishment of the Press Council of India. Formed in 1966, the Press Council keeps a check on the quality of reportage provided by the Indian press. It also ensures that journalistic objectivity is not compromised due to “influence or threats of any extraneous factors”. On the occasion, a lot has been spoken about media as the fourth estate and journalists as watchdogs of society and government etc. Also threats faced by journalists and media houses from anti-socials and vested interests would also find some mention. On the whole, the press in India is free- to write in any way desired to suit the needs or demands of powerful elements. Therefore, this raises the question then, of how free in the press in India? According to The Press Freedom Index, India ranks 130 among 180 nations. Countries like the UK and the US are in the top 50 when it comes to press freedom. Today the press in Indian is facing the same situation as in 1975-77 but in a totally different way. There is no government order on press censorship or openly targeting journalists or media houses considered hostile. The press in India is free yet fearful as it has seen how those who openly criticised the government have been shunted out of their positions or media houses put under probes or advertisements withdrawn from corporate houses as a favour to the powers that be. For instance, the death of a judge in what seem to be mysterious circumstances, while presiding over a case against the second most powerful person in the country and which would be make prime-time television in a democracy was not a headline news. Similarly, the allegations of corruption against the son of a powerful politician would have garnered media attention but it was barely mentioned. Even in the Rafale deal, media acted with undue restraint in covering the statements of Rahul Gandhi. His media briefings were buried in the inside pages and in insignificant spaces. The other clear evidence of threat on the media comes from Anil Ambani, who is at the centre of the Rafale storm. Following incisive coverage of the seemingly hand-in-glove dealings of Anil Ambani’s Reliance group with the Narendra Modi-led government, these suits were slapped on multiple media organisations, including NDTV for Rs 10,000 crore, the National Herald for Rs 5,000 crore and the latest target being the independent publication, The Citizen, for Rs 7,000 crore and several other politicians. The total amount of damages sought by the Anil Ambani company is a whopping Rs 72,000 crore for a meagre sum of Rs 75,000 as court fee per case. He has also issued a court ‘desist notice’ on all against making any statements on his involvement with the Rafale deal. What is being witnessed is the wider climate of intolerance fostered by the combustible combination of distorted nationalism aided by state power. The Press Freedom Index Report mentions that extreme right wing elements are trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media.” Thus, when the largest democracy in the world, and the oldest one in the Global South, displays authoritarian tendencies betraying the promise of its founding fathers, it has implications beyond India.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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