New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) There is need for stronger editorial filters rather than “content filters” in the form of a law to regulate the media, speakers at a seminar said here Friday, and added that the issue of self-regulation of media needs to be debated further.
Speakers at a seminar on ‘Challenges facing the Media’, at the India International Centre, also stressed that the issue of paid news needs to be addressed.
While Salman Khurshid, union law minister, said the government believes there is “ample scope for self-regulation and that the present one is inadequate”, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad was critical of the “rush for TRPs” by the electronic media that he said was being done “in a most fraudulent manner”.
Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief, Indian Express, criticized the electronic media for the manner in which the anchors, from “becoming inquisitors, have now become judges and executioners”. He said media was feeling the need to “put a leash around our necks due to bad conscience”, and added that the real threat to media was from “arrogance, incompetence and greed” and there was a need to “look within”.
Raghav Bahl, Founder & Editor, Network 18, said the media needs to regulate the content by itself and does not need “content filters”, and criticized the way the media was “purveying virtually by rote half-understood government language.
“Government is god, is the stance journalists are taking and end up magnifying what is a wrong handout by the government department,” he said, putting the CAG report “in that category”.
“A very plural media and a very competitive media, these two can reach the right point (balance),” Bahl said and added that problems of “excesses” are transient and “part of the learning process”.
Shekhar Gupta cited reporting on the Adarsh housing society scam as an example of how little the editors cared to cross-check facts which led to “a mythology being built”.
He said the society was not meant for Kargil war widows and the media did not care to crosscheck the fact before putting out the news.
He also criticized the way “senior journalists were embracing the government” and “speaking for the government”. He urged the members of the Editors Guild to say that the members should not be “seduced by the government” by accepting Rajya Sabha nominations or becoming part of any government panel.
N.Ravi, former editor, The Hindu, said there should be debate on effective self regulation of media. While there should not be curbs on press freedom, but in instances of defamation and violation of privacy, whether levying fines could be an answer needed to be examined.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said he was all for a vibrant press but there is need for introspection on whether self regulation was working. In the case of sting operations, “there should be some code, some accountability so that it did not upset the freedom of privacy and the right to live with dignity”. He also said that while he was information and broadcasting minister he had written the guidelines himself on allowing foreign investment in print media and “was steadfast that the foreign investor will have no control in editorial content and am happy it remains”.
On the issue of paid news, Prasad said that concern has been expressed by the Editors Guild and the Supreme Court, but no positive outcome has come. “I feel very strongly about the menace of paid news and it needs a suitable mechanism to address it,” he added.
Khurshid called for an “inclusive, collective approach” while debating on the criminal aspect of defamation. He said civil suits in defamation could be effective in dealing with the criminal element of defamation.
On the issue of paid news, which he termed the “new whipping boy”, Khurshid suggested disclosures by the channel or newspaper mentioning the source of funding.
On the issue of guidelines for court reporting, Khurshid said they were working with the court to come out with a “workable solution”.
While there should be guidelines for the media on discussing trials, “even judges need guidelines… as they reveal (judgments)”, he added.
He suggested that the form of “free video conferencing and visible presentation” in court cases followed in some countries could be adopted.
The seminar was organized jointly by the Editors Guild of India, International Press Institute (India Chapter) and the IIC.