Give self-regulation some time: Soni tells media (Lead)

February 24th, 2012 - 11:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Ambika Soni New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Rejecting any attempt to impose censorship, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni Friday urged the media industry to “give the self-regulation process some time” to establish its credibility and hoped that “something positive” will come out of this process.

Stressing that she was against any outside censorship or control over media, Soni called for regulation by the media industry itself. “I firmly believe that we must give the process of self-regulation some time and that something positive will come from this process,” said Soni here. “It is necessary to give the process, time and space to establish its credibility and acceptance,” she said while cautioning against the dangers
of “sensational journalism.”

She was speaking after conferring the International Press Institute(IPI)-India Excellence in Journalism awards on “Tehelka” and “The Week” for their investigative journalism.

She said that efforts made by leading broadcasting bodies have provided a roadmap for the self-regulation process to move forward and stressed that the government was committed to facilitate the various mechanisms taken in this regard.

Soni also dispelled doubts regarding the intention of the government in controlling the mass communication. She quoted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s views on the issue of freedom of press.

“Everyday we see examples of journalism of a very high standard. There are stories with painstaking research and the journalists often tell stories at considerable risk to themselves. But we also see sensationalism and prejudiced reporting,” Manmohan Singh had said.

Former chief justice of India A.S. Anand, the chairman of the IPI India jury, urged Soni to follow-up on the issue of the abolition of criminal defamation.” “It is the duty of the state to protect the freedom of expression,” he said.

“Freedom of speech and expression is the soul of democracy. It has been granted special protection under our Constitution.” He was critical of the tendency of the press to divert the attention of the readers from the real issues to non-issues. “I think the press is sometimes far focused on trivial issues at the cost of major issues in the country. From a human rights perspective, there are issues about custodial killings, abuse of children and women. These issues remain mostly under-reported in media.” He also added that the media has to self regulate more and more.

N. Ravi, the chairman of the IPI India chapter, alluded to the challenges that journalists face in doing their job daily. “The first is criminal defamation where the criminal justice process can be easily triggered by any motivated person or group even in the most frivolous cases and has the rigid requirement of personal appearance..with the result that a journalist and a publication can be dragged to court in far corners of the country.”

Congratulating the joint winners, Tehelka and The Week, Soni said it was a moment to celebrate the initiative as well as the awards, claiming that starting such awards was a great step towards increasing the standards of investigative journalism in the country.

Tehelka got the award for exposing Shri Ram Sena’s riots on rent operations while The Week got the prize for investigating the sham medical and dental colleges that had no doctors, patients or facilities and yet were permitted to award degrees to thousands of students.

Journalists walk a tough line between meaningful journalism and surviving in a highly competitive market with the “advertisers paying the bills not the readers,” said Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal. Senior journalist Gunjan sharma received the award for The Week.

IPI Vienna executive director Alison McKenzie, Philip Mathew, Managing Editor of The Week, Sachidananda Murthy, resident editor of the Week, were also present at the award ceremony.

Soni also struck an upbeat note about the growth prospects of the media in India and stressed that the print media is still thriving in the country despite competition from social media and 24×7 channels. The untapped potential of 300 million literate individuals offered an opportunity to the industry to carve out the next stage of growth for the print industry, she said.

India has more than 800 television channels in 24 languages reaching 140 million homes, she said.

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