Brig. K.G. Behl (Retd.)
President, All India Consumers Council, Uttarakhand
National Press Day – The 16th of November – is symbolic of a free and responsible press in India. On this day the Press Council of India started functioning as a moral watchdog to ensure that not only did the press maintain the high standards expected from this powerful medium but also that it was not fettered by the influence or threats of any extraneous factors. Though there are several Press or Media Councils world over, the Press Council of India is a unique entity in as-much-as this is the only body to exercise an authority even over the instruments of the state in its duty to safeguard the independence of the press.
Recommending the establishment of Press Council in 1956 the Ist Press Commission had concluded that the best way of maintaining professional ethics in journalism would be to bring into existence a body with statutory authority, of people principally connected with industry whose duty it would be to arbitrate. To this end the Press Council of India was established and the body since November 16, 1966 has not belied the objective.
November 16 therefore personifies a responsible and free press in the country. All those who cherish it, so commemorate the day. The National Press Day on November 16 every year is commemorated in befitting manner by the Council. Since the year 1997, many seminars have been organized by the Press Council on occasion of National Press Day.
The prominent amongst those seminars are 50 years of Press in India – A Critical Review, 2) Attacks on the freedom of the Press and 3) Right to Information; 4) Role of Media in Crises Situations (Sub-Topics)– Constitutional Crises, Political Crises, Economic Crises, Social Crises, Security Crises and Threats to the Freedom of the Press on Internal and External ; Media and Society” (Sub-Topics)-a) Role of Media in nurturing awareness of fundamental duties among citizens b) Role of Media in preserving rich composite heritage and tradition of the country and in promoting democracy 5) The role of media, in arousing popular conscience to promote peace, harmony and brotherhood transcending barriers of caste, religion and sectional interests “Role of Media : Preparing People to Cope with Disasters” ; “Projection of Women by Media in Present Day Context” & “Occupational Hazards Faced by Media persons in Conflict Situations: Relief and Rehabilitation Measures in Fatal Cases”;
This day is celebrated on 16th and 17th November by holding two day seminar to touch up on matters which are prominent and affect the society during the year. The Government of India have introduced various policies and practices towards journalists, which signify their scope of research and writing and also what press organizations can publish journalists have some privileges which general public do not, and they can also interview the senior officials, politicians, celebrities and other persons in focus. Those journalists who are involved in sensitive issues are given special protection by Government.
Journalism ethics comprises principles of ethics and good practices which are applicable to the various challenges faced by the journalism. This is known as a professional ‘code of ethics’ or the ‘canons of journalism’. This is followed by professional journalism associations as well as broadcast and online news organizations. The journalism should follow the principles of genuineness, integrity, neutrality, legitimacy and public answerability. This will result in the transformation of information into news disseminated to the public.
Journalism ethics include the principle of ‘Limitation of Harm’, which prevents the harm done to someone’s reputation, including the names of minor children, crime victims, and other civilians. Suit can be filed in the court even if by mistake the names or faces of the persons involved in the crime are revealed as it amounts to exposing the victim against whom the case is yet to be established.
It is learnt that some of the big business houses and political parties, purchase print media or even electronic media to project their points of view and impose upon the public their ideologies. This needs to be checked by the Govt. and Press Council of India. Attention of the Election Commission of India is also drawn to false propaganda being made by certain print and electronic media specially regarding pre and post exit polls. The worst part is played by the discussions which turn violent and present a wrong view to the public.