DUB Speak

A Free Press, An Open Mind: World Press Freedom Day

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“If I had to choose between government without papers, and papers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.”   – Thomas Jefferson

As the world observes World Press Freedom Day on May 3, hundreds of journalists are languishing in prisons and many have been killed for performing their tasks. Closer home, we are yet to formally enshrine the freedom of the press in the Constitution, and murder cases like that of investigative journalist Jyotirmoy Dey have not been solved yet.

Press freedom today is not only about forging an independent relationship between the state and the media but also about freedom of the media from any and all external influences, be it the corporate world or powerful media persons themselves. A free press is one that is fair and non-biased; a free press is one that works for the greater good. A free press should not only aim to destroy and bring down governments, it should also be able to build.

Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen once famously made a connection between the number and the availability of newspapers and the frequency of droughts in a country. So, in a democracy, the free press is expected to function as a connection between the concerns of its citizens and the duties of its government. But does the press today voice the concerns of all sections of the citizenry? It is not only about government censorship, it is also about biased reportage. Press freedom should also mean press neutrality.

While we have probably tided over one of the darkest phases of press censorship, the Emergency, the trends of corporatisation in the media industry are no less a threat to press freedom. Private Treaty Agreements between investors and media houses are a problem, party support or patronage to particular papers and channels is also a problem. Right from the Bofors Scam to the Swiss bank accounts, media houses have faced great pressure from the state and private entities alike and in recent times, received great support from civil society and particularly from “netizens”.

Freedom of the press is a democratic right and all democratic rights are about rectitude and entitlement, they come with duty-bearing considerations. As Wendell Phillips said, “what gunpowder did for war, the printing press has done for the mind.” If the press, rather, the media in all its forms, can open up the mind to thoughts, ideas and action, it must have both the right and the obligation to do so.


Alankrita Anand

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[email protected]; Alankrita is a student of Journalism at Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Technology is one thing that terrifies her and at the helm of a good old newspaper is where she hopes to be one day. Reading, writing and holidaying (not necessarily in that order) are her favourite things to do. If not a journalist, she would be a politician, as goes the trend.

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