Media houses should have own ombudsman, suggests former Lokayukta

Former Lokayukta justice N Santosh Hegde on Thursday suggested media houses to have their own ombudsman to keep a tab on the realm.

He was speaking at a discussion on ‘media and accountability’ organised by the Mysore District Journalists Association in the city on Thursday. The programme had been organised in the wake of chairman of Press Council of India’s (PCI) Markandeya Katju’s recent statement that ‘there should be an ombudsman for media too’.

Said Hegde: “If an external body is vested with powers to rein in the media, it would amount to snatching the freedom of the press, and it shouldn’t happen”. The ombudsman should be formed of all media houses. It assumes significance in the wake of call for accountability and transparency in every fields.

However, he was pained to note that electronic media in general is losing its sheen by airing serials and programmes of low quality. On his storming report on mines as  a Lokayukta, Hegde said initially he was not aware of the journalists named among many favoured by mining mafia in the list. It was only after a couple of months after submitting the report, did he come to know about two journalists in the list. To a reply, he said he would have definitely gone ahead even if he knew about their (journalists) names before submitting the report too. It was one among the two journalists who aired the interview of a police officer earlier working in Lokayukta in a channel, to say ‘all is not well in Lokayukta too’. Hegde said- he too is well aware of the fact that there are corrupts in Lokayukta office too. However, we (the top officers) have to weed out corrupts.

Elected reps

Later participating in the interaction, Hegde stressed for the performance audit of every elected representatives- be it parliament or assembly, once in every month. It will give a preview of his or her active role to the voters. Also, voting should be made mandatory (barring inevitable reasons) and system to recall at times.

Not again

To a query on whether he was interested in decorating the seat of Lokayukta for second term as reiterated by Governor H R Bhardwaj on many occasions, Hegde said he was not interested. “In the current juncture, the political parties don’t have faith in me”, said Hegde in support of his assertion. However, he said the post of Lokayukta should not remain vacant for long, as it holds no good for the society.

To another query on whether there were any possibilities of Governor  vested with powers to directly appoint a Lokayukta on the lines of Gujarat, Hegde claimed innocence saying he was not aware of the laws of that State. He made it clear that he wasn’t for legal advice, but only for sharing the information.

Principal district and sessions judge H P Sandesh, journalist K B Ganapathy, president of Mysore District Journalists Association (MDJA) C K Mahendra and others were present.

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