Dr. Avnish Jolly, Ludhiana 9th Novembe, 2008 :Leader of Opposition in the Loksabha, Mr. Lal Krishan Advani inaugurated the two- day National Conference of Indian Media Centre (IMC) at Pal Auditorium of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana today and sheared that it gives me great pleasure to him and he was especially happy to be in the campus of the Punjab Agriculture University due to one of the finest institutions in India dedicated to agricultural research and education.
Mr. Advani shared that people belonging to the younger generation may not know the severity of the food crisis that India was facing when this university was established way back in 1963. Due to food shortage, India was compelled to take food aid from the United States under the PL 480 programme. As a result, it was literally ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence for those dependent on food grains from ration shops. Subsequently, it is institutions like the Punjab Agricultural University that helped India to achieve the Green Revolution and become self-sufficient in food. I am told that this university has developed as many as 558 high-yielding varieties of food grains, vegetables and fruits.
Mr. Advani congratulates the scientists of agriculture universities in India for their achievement. And also congratulate the farmers of Punjab who have used modern farm practices to make this state a granary of India. It is heartening for me to know that the Akali Dal-BJP Government in Punjab, under the experienced leadership of Shri Parkash Singh Badal, has been promoting the interests of kisans by strengthening the link between agricultural research and farm practices.
Mr. Advani shared that he is used to meeting media persons at press conferences and occasionally, he gets an opportunity like this to interact with journalists at their own conferences. In press conferences, he tries to communicate his political message to the general public through the medium of journalists. However, in the workshop he is expected to communicate something to the journalistic community itself. He also shared that he has been a journalist myself, having worked with the weekly journal ‘Organiser’ for several years in the 1960s. This was an interlude in his long life as a political activist. His stint as the Minister of Information & Broadcasting in the late 1970s, in the Janata Party Government headed by Morarji Desai, also gave him an opportunity to deal with many important media-related issues. These issues, incidentally, were also critically related to India’s democracy which had just emerged out of an eclipse it had suffered during the Emergency Rule (1975-77).
Since then, the scenario of journalism in India has changed dramatically. The term ‘media’ today encompasses a far wider range of communication platforms than was the case when I was a journalist and, later, I&B minister. Even Doordarshan was in its infancy then. And both Doordarshan and All India Radio, the only non-print media platforms, were completely under the control of the Government. Today, besides a proliferation of TV channels and FM radio channels, we are witnessing one of the biggest revolutions in media history: growth of the Internet.
One of the most distinguishing features of this new medium is that, unlike the older media that only promote one-way communication; the internet has made two-way communication possible. In other words, the reader or the viewer or the listener is not only a passive recipient of information. He can also participate in the communication by responding back. This interactive feature has empowered the people by giving them a voice and an opportunity to express themselves. The significance of this for the future evolution of politics and governance in our country ? indeed, all over the world ? is so enormous that it cannot be fully comprehended now.
He shared a personal example in which he said that some of his party men have created a website for him -actually, they prefer to call it a portal and not just a website. It was launched by Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha in New Delhi yesterday. Frankly, he could not have imagined a decade ago that it is possible to provide so much information in the form of text, photographs, and video and audio clips, which anybody anywhere in the world can access any time. Besides, the portal gives an opportunity for the visitors to post their views on current topics and give suggestions for the Agenda of the future NDA Government on a wide range of issues. This is truly participative democracy in action.
This experience has convinced him that, although the internet has many other uses, it is in his view by far the greatest enabler, enriched and defender of democracy in the history of mankind. We should harness its full potential to promote Good Politics and Good Governance in our country. Which is why, if the NDA is elected to office in the next parliamentary elections, it will be our commitment to support a countrywide Broadband Revolution, making it affordable to the common people, especially students and youth. We shall also promote the internet in Indian languages in a big way.
While talking on the Basic principles of journalism he said that friends, technology has been revolutionalising your profession, just as it has been radically transforming so many other aspects of life. However, technology cannot alter the basic purpose and principles of journalism. Which is why, I was happy to note in the letter to me from Shri Shyam Khosla, inviting me to inaugurate this conference, a strong affirmation of the Indian Media Centre’s commitment to professionalism, ethics, press freedom and media education". Whether one communicates through the traditional medium of a newspaper or through an internet platform, what matters more than anything else is the set of these basic principles of journalism.
In his view, journalists should become aware of both internal and external threats to their profession. For example, today the threat to press freedom does not come so much from the Government as it did during the Emergency. The press was shackled by censorship then. Many brave journalists resisted these draconian measures to suppress dissent, and paid the price for it. However, there were many others who succumbed. After lifting all restrictions on the press imposed during the Emergency, I, as I&B Minister, once had an occasion to interact with journalists. I told them, "When you were only asked to bend, many of you chose to crawl".
Today the forces that make journalists bend and crawl are quite unlike those that operated during the Emergency. Money power and other vested interests have established a kind of stranglehold over the Indian media that is not healthy either for the profession or for our democracy.
He believes that it is neither possible nor desirable for the Government to dictate reforms in the media. Primarily, this is something which those related to the media have to debate. Self-regulation is the best kind of regulation as far as the media are concerned.
Nevertheless, if there are any policy matters that can help strengthen the Indian media, I would very much like to receive suggestions from media professionals like you. In particular, I would like to know from you how we can strengthen small and medium newspapers and media organizations and how we can further strengthen the various media in non-English languages.
He would also welcome from you suggestions on how both media organizations and the Government can together start welfare schemes for retired journalists and media professionals. There is yet another point on which I would like to share my thoughts with you. I am concerned ? indeed; millions of ordinary citizens in the country are also concerned ? at the trend towards sensationalism in the media. Those in responsible positions in the media should resist the temptation of scoring over competitors’ ? the so-called TRP war ? by ignoring their own code of professionalism. If credibility is important for politicians, it is equally important for media organizations and media professionals.
He said that because the role of the media in our national life has increased enormously in recent decades. The media have the power to influence society both positively and negatively. It is imperative that people within the media profession, especially those in leadership positions, realize their responsibility towards society and the nation. He therefore commend the efforts of the Indian Media Centre to mobilise the voice of enlightened media professionals in India.
Shri Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab; Shri Chandan Mitra, Editor of The Pioneer and Chairman of the India Media Centre; Shri Shyam Khosla, Director of the IMC; Dr Harjinder Singh Lall, General Secretary of the Punjab chapter of the IMC; distinguished delegates were also present at this movement.