Sensationalism,paid news bane of journalism now: Venkaiah Naidu

Kollam/Kottayam | Lamenting that sensationalism, paid news and biased coverage have become the ‘bane’ of modern day journalism, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu Saturday said the fourth estate needed to do “serious introspection”.

In his inaugural address at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Kollam Press club, he noted that journalism in the past was a mission to fight ills that afflicted society and journalists used to work without fear or favour.

He said this was no longer the case as commercial and other considerations were taking precedence over everything else.

“Sensationalism, paid news and biased coverage have become the bane of modern-day journalism. In addition, we are having the problem of fake news”, he said.

The Vice President said that in spite of restrictions imposed by the British, the press remained fearless and many journals and newspapers had played a pioneering role.

However, during the Emergency, barring a few exceptions like ‘Indian Express’, ‘The Statesman’ and ‘The Mainstream’, the response of the press was by and large “muted”, he said.

Over the years, the media landscape has changed drastically and so had the values of those professing to be journalists.

With business groups and even political parties setting up newspapers and television channels to further their interests, the core values of journalism were getting “eroded”, Naidu said and urged journalists to do a “serious introspection”.

Of late, the undesirable practises of mixing news with views has become the ‘new normal’. The sooner these were eliminated, the better it would be for journalists and society at large, Naidu said.

In the present digital era when millions are using social media platforms, journalists would have to be extra careful in checking the veracity of information and guard against ‘fake news’, disinformation and misinformation, Naidu cautioned.

Pointing out that the media should act as a bridge between the government and people, he said it should ensure that justice is not denied to the people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised sections of society.

Instead of focusing on negativity, it was important that newspapers in a country like India accord importance to development journalism as there were challenges related to agriculture, climate change, gender equality and delivery of health services, among others, he said.

He said democracy can thrive only when all shades of opinion are allowed to be expressed fully and freely. Any attempt to stifle or shut out contrarian viewpoints was unhealthy and would stunt intellectual development, he said.

Naidu also said freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Constitution was not absolute, but bound by reasonable restrictions and suggested that it was perhaps time that media bodies came out with a code of conduct for journalists.

In view of the critical role journalism plays in protecting democracy and serving the larger good of society, the profession must maintain the highest ethical, moral and reporting standards, he said.

It was also time that a minimum educational qualification should be prescribed for aspiring journalists to ensure that the standards and ethics were maintained, Naidu said.

Speaking at the 90th-anniversary celebrations of Akhila Kerala Balajanasakhyam, an initiative of Malayala Manorama daily, he voiced concern over unwelcome tendencies in the media like mixing news with views, propagation of fake news and sensationalism and said these were detrimental for democracy and should be curbed through strict self-regulation by the media.

“Ours is an increasingly complex information society and knowledge-driven world and information is vital for progress.

Analysing and synthesising this huge mass of information and facts to produce knowledge is crucial for our advancement,” he said at the function in Kottayam.

Applauding Balajanasakhyam for striving to make young children more sensitive, compassionate and responsive to the needs of others, he congratulated Malayala Manorama for envisioning and realising this noble initiative.

“In keeping with its motto of ‘We Serve’, Balajanasakhyam has been at the vanguard of relief and social service activities in Kerala for nine decades, he said.

The Vice President applauded ‘Hridayapoorvam Sakhyam’, a platinum jubilee project of Balajanasakhyam, which together with Madras Medical Mission hospital, had facilitated free heart surgeries to hundreds of ailing children.

Naidu lauded Malayala Manorama for making Balajanasakhyam child and youth focused and suggested it be mandatory for school and college students to enlist in organisations like NCC and NSS to instil discipline and team spirit in them.

He visited the K C Mammen Mappilai hall, named after the veteran journalist, one of the pioneering leaders of the print media in Kerala and founder of Malayala Manorama.

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