Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday stressed on the need for self-regulation within the media and that there must be no government interference in its functioning.
He said there had to be limits to which the media exercises its freedom but that it has to be an internal process and not an external intervention. “Like a mother who tells her children not to eat too much,” he said at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Press Council of India, that plays the role of a regulator for print media.
In his speech, the PM unequivocally stressed on the need to protect the freedom of the media.
The PM’s remarks comes in the wake of the government ordering a private television channel, NDTV India, to go off-the-air for a day on grounds that it had telecast strategically sensitive details while covering the attack on the Pathankot airbase earlier this year. The government put its decision on hold after criticism that the channel was not being penalised for its coverage of the attack, but the government’s actions.
Asking that the media should be judged for its role in its entirety and not a few mistakes that it may have made, Modi recalled the introspection that had followed within the media over coverage of the 1999 hijacking of IC 814 flight from Nepal and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
The Prime Minister also expressed concern over the recent killings of journalists in some parts of the country. He said while any killing was worrisome, it was more so when journalists who were trying to tell the truth were killed.
Information and broadcasting (I&B) minister M Venkaiah Naidu also stressed on self-regulation by media but added that if this did not happen, “then there has to be a mechanism”.
The minister, however, added that the government was not thinking of any restriction on any medium.
“When freedom is not exercised judiciously, our existing laws provide for necessary intervention and course correction,” he said.
The I&B minister also asked the media to avoid mixing their views with news, suggesting that the media should be “nearer to the truth” and avoid sensationalism.
He, however, added that his advice applied more to the electronic media than the print media.