LS Speaker Sumitra Mahajan must realise that journalists are not PR professionals
If the Lok Sabha Speaker thinks that ‘good-news’ journalism helps the government in power, she is wrong. No government can benefit from dressing uncomfortable facts in pleasant language or indeed not bringing them to public attention at alleditorials Updated: Jun 22, 2017 15:42 IST
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday had some words of advice for those who earn their livelihood by writing. Asking journalists to use “beautiful language,” Ms Mahajan said we --- journalists --- should sometimes avoid telling the unpleasant truth. Speaking at a function organised by RSS-affiliated Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra, she also supported statements asking journalists to report news in the national interest. Ms Mahajan said journalists can learn a lot from the mythical character Narad Muni when it comes to objectivity. “… whatever is said should be said in beautiful language. A lot can be communicated to the government using such [polite] language. Satyam Bruyat Priyam Bruyat, Na Bruyat Apriyam Satyam [Tell the truth. Tell nice things. Do not tell unpleasant truth] — this is also required sometimes.”
By saying that journalists should try to avoid unpleasant truths, what does Ms Mahajan mean? Should we varnish information and dress it up for the public, which incidentally is paying to get authentic news and views? Does this mean that we don’t talk about the shortcomings of government programmes and like good stenographers take down whatever figures are given to us by the authorities? And what about the beautiful language she wants us to use? Can beautiful language hide difficult truths? If the Lok Sabha Speaker thinks than such journalism helps the government in power, she is wrong. No government can benefit from dressing uncomfortable facts in pleasant language or indeed not bringing them to public attention at all. In fact, Ms Mahajan is discounting the intelligence of citizens/voters if she thinks only good news from the media can shore up a party’s prospects in an election. People vote for a party when they think it can bring something to the table for them, not because the media creates some kind of hype around a party or politician.
A person who has such a wishlist list for journalists obviously cannot be an admirer of someone like George Orwell. Yet, she should read what the author said about the profession: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” It’s time Ms Mahajan realises and appreciates the difference between the two. However, she is not the only one to think this way; politicians cutting across party lines often express similar views. Shamefully, many journalists are also not without blame in shying away from being totally objective. Yet, Ms Mahajan is mistaken if she thinks that is way journalism should be.