Newdelhi:26*5/17: President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee delivered the Ramnath Goenka Memorial lecture said that Ramnath Goenka embodied the finest virtues of journalism: fierce independence, fearlessness and a determination to always stand up to the powerful and fight against the abuse or misuse of power. In fact, there was nothing he enjoyed more than a fight to protect the right of The Indian Express to publish what he thought was proper and just.
The President said that technology has led to a phenomenal growth in the means of communication, bombarding the public with unprecedented volumes of data, information and, not least, opinion. This has had many positive outcomes: foremost, it has broken the shackles of silence imposed on the powerless. The sense of liberation that the Internet and social media especially, allows, has ensured that everyone has a voice and that even small voices in the remotest areas can be heard. The average citizen has been truly empowered in her ability to speak out and to find out. All of this growth has resulted in a plurality and diversity in the access to information. There is a whole new information world out there to be tapped by our people across the length and breadth of the country. However, the downside is that the sheer scale and volume of data and information means that much of what is available today remains unfiltered and unmediated. In many cases, even unchecked.
The President said that he believes the media must safeguard the public interest, and provide a voice to the marginalized in our society. Our people face enormous inequalities which need to be articulated and highlighted continuously – by the media — in order to ensure they are addressed by those who govern. For it to be able to aim for the highest standards of professionalism, journalists and media organizations must turn the spotlight inwards, on themselves. They must hold themselves to the standards they demand of others.
The President said that the Press and the media are considered to be the fourth pillar of the democracy. It wields extra ordinary powers of not only holding the other three pillars accountable, but also influencing and shaping public opinion like no other institution of democracy can. While this enormous power, to sustain itself requires the basic dictum of freedom of expression, at the same time it puts an equally enormous responsibility of accountability and credibility on the media itself. To my mind, while the press will be failing in its duty if it does not pose questions to the powers that be, it will have to simultaneously judge the frivolous from the factual and publicity from reportage.