Holding aloft the freedom of the press in India, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni on Thursday lauded the country's media as the 'freest' in the world.
"Our media is probably the freest in the world," Soni said in her inaugural address at the 'International Colloquium on Freedom of Expression & Human Rights' organised by the Press Council of India.
"Media should act as the enabler which gives voice to the voiceless, it should ensure that every marginal group is heard, is seen, is involved in the mainstream by highlighting issues that protect and enhance the dignity and self-esteem of such groups, thereby empowering them."
Echoing the minister's address, many foreign delegates were effusive in their praise of the Indian media.
A visibly impressed Dalia Dorner, president, Israeli Press Council, told Hindustan Times, "you criticize your government, your parliament, you have a free press and your press council laws are excellent. Hats off to Indian democracy. You are not only the biggest democracy, you are a real democracy."
Said Warren Beeby, Australian Press Council member and veteran journalist: "These days I have reading Indian media stories of official corruption page after page. That gives me the feeling that the media is doing things freely as it is supposed to do."
Giving his impression of the Indian media, Kajubi D Mukajanga, executive secretary, Media Council of Tanzania, said, "there is a lot of objectivity, balance, besides the depth in content. In Tanzania, when you pick up a newspaper, 90% stories slant towards one party, while in another paper, there is another pronounced slant. In India, I haven't seen such bias, it speaks much for a free press."
Soni noted that 653 satellite TV channels had been granted permission till date, 31 were awaiting permission, while the FM Phase-III to be rolled out shortly will ensure availability of 806 radio stations across 283 cities. However, she had a word of caution for the Indian media, "at the same time, media needs to avoid sensationalisation and trivialisation of issues in the pursuit of commercial interests."
"While the Indian media has done a great job till date, in recent times, technology has created havoc. This applies more to television. And content too smack of elitism. But the best part is that Indian media is adapting itself in response to criticism," said N Bhaskara Rao, chairman, Centre for Media Studies.