Free Press Vital for Strong Democracy

VISAKHAPATNAM:An independent media enjoys the freedom of expression and can influence public opinion in a democratic nation, but it should be equally responsible in discharging its duties, felt Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan. She stated that freedom of speech and expression are possible only in democracy and Parliamentary democracy can be achieved only with the help of a free, responsible and diverse media.

Addressing the inaugural session of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) workshop on ‘The Parliament and the Media Law’ in Visakhapatnam Wednesday, Mahajan opined that an independent media can play a crucial role in influencing and moulding public opinion, which has an impact on the decision-making process in the legislative bodies. She cautioned that the freedom of press should be used wisely and responsibly. “But how to achieve this - through the laws imposed by the government or with the media regulating itself - remains a million dollar question,” she pointed out.

The Lok Sabha speaker stated that the freedom of the press also includes the public’s right to know and participate in free flow of information. “The relationship between Parliaments/legislatures and media is crucial. While the former were the forums, which discuss issues concerning the public, the latter convey the gist of the discussions to the people and also provide feedback.”

She also pointed out that beyond print and electronic media, the social media has become another platform for journalism enabling users to exercise the freedom of expression at will.

Highlighting the advent of social media, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu strongly felt that adaptation of technology was the only solution to fight the menaces of unemployment, poverty, epidemics and illiteracy. He observed that social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter could be used as conduits of welfare and development in India for bridging the relations between the government and the people to redress the latter’s grievances.

“Social media has become a powerful medium of communication without any investment, posing a challenge to the traditional media. A positive media aiding the large human and natural resources and good leadership could help India work wonders dedicating the next two or three decades to India,” he added. He also hailed the Supreme Court striking down Section 66 of IT act as a major victory for campaigners for social media democracy in the country.

Union minister for urban development and Parliamentary affairs M Venkaiah Naidu said that good debates in the Parliament or Legislatures were not getting focussed in the media, but disruptions created by the members get better coverage due to which some members continue to do ugly things to get attention, he observed.

“News and views could not be combined and news must reach the reader or viewer first. Both the Parliament and the media have equal responsibility in furthering democracy,” he said. However, he cautioned that the Parliament and the media should not get too close or act as adversaries.

Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, Andhra Pradesh Assembly speaker Kodela Siva Prasada Rao and Legislative Council chairman A Chakrapani along with presiding officers from 10 countries and 20 states and legislative secretaries attended the session.

CPA executive committee member and MP Prem Das Rai, Lok Sabha secretary general Anup Mishra and Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly secretary K Satyanarayana also spoke.

‘Cordial Relations Needed Between Media & Parliament’

On the first day of the session, the role of media in Parliamentary democracy was highlighted in the different sessions of the workshop. Delegates representing the Parliament and the media pressed the need for cordial relations between both the estates of the democracy. Chandrasekher of Parliament TV averred that TV news was increasingly focussing on controversies, neglecting the real and meaningful issues. Abhilash Khandekar, a freelance journalist, pointed out that print media was rendering great service to the nation despite the ills plaguing it. In another session on ‘Parliament and the Media: Legal Framework’, Lok Sabha MP Prathap Simha discussed the legal framework and the law relating to the Parliament. Craig James, clerk of British Columbia observed that the Parliamentary functioning should be a role model to the citizens. In the last session, various speakers discussed the role of media and the Parliament functioning in the 21st century.


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