Threat to freedom of expression a threat to media: PM

Threat to freedom of expression a threat to media: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urged the media to accept the challenges of threat to freedom of expression posed by certain quarters.

"In a democracy, we realise the importance of freedom of expression only when it is denied to us just like the importance of breathing is realised when one cannot breathe for two seconds," Modi said.

Inaugurating the Platinum Jubilee celebration of North East's leading English daily 'The Assam Tribune' here, he said "it was Indira Gandhi who made us realise the value of freedom of thought, ideas and expression in a democracy by gagging the media during the Emergency."

"People refused to accept it and the country was united to assert its right for freedom of expression, though many editors and mediapersons were thrown into prison and faced innumerable challenges", Modi said.

"Whenever any person or organisation wants to assert their supremacy, their first attack is on the media and the most recent example is that of the ISIS who made journalists their victims by beheading them," he said.

It was not important for ISIS from which country the journalist belonged to, what language he spoke or what his colour was, but the fact that he was wielding the pen and fighting for the truth was enough to make him a victim, the Prime Minister said.

In the 21st century, "an attack on media is an attack on humanity and is a blot for the nation and the world alike", he said.

Modi said "the media faces immense challenge in a fast-moving society like ours. Earlier, we got news once in 24 hours but now we get at least 24 news in one minute and the challenge is to be trusted and remain credible".

Credibility is a major challenge for the media as, he said, "merely reading the news is not enough but one has to read between the lines to ascertain whether it is credible."

"Had we ever seen earlier any signboard at any shop saying 'pure ghee available here'? But now we see such things. Similarly, media, too, has taken to promotion in a big way with slogans like 'saccha (true) khabar and tej (fast) khabar which makes one wary about its veracity," Modi said.

The reader "also becomes doubtful that something is wrong when a news report is excessively quoted to a 'reliable source' as people expect the media to have the power to take responsibility for what they are reporting'', he said.

"It is very easy to start a news organisation but to remain credible is a challenge," the Prime Minister said.

Journalists should be like honeybees -- producing honey and at the same time stinging to make a lasting impact and not like the fly which only spreads dirt, Modi said.

"I am not giving any advice or criticising anybody but the time has come for the media to accept the challenges posed as the world of communication is changing very fast and your aim should be not to slip in that journey," he said.

He lauded the founder of 'The Assam Tribune' group of newspapers, late Radha Govinda Baruah, for starting the newspaper, first as a weekly and then as a daily.

Forty years ago searching news was a big thing as it was a time when people stayed away from being news but "now news itself goes in search of a newspaper" as people are too eager to get publicity, he said.

Modi said a newspaper born 75 years ago was "born in pain, inspired by the prevailing conditions of the society and it was an expression of anger and angst through the pen."

"Baruah brought out a newspaper which became a centre of social consciousness and it became a peoples' movement with time and now the people of the region cannot imagine a morning without this newspaper," the Prime Minister said.

"A newspaper does not inform alone, does not bring news alone but moulds our thought, gives a direction to it and opens the window to new world," he said.

He also lauded the founder of the newspaper for setting up a sports stadium, popularising Assam's main pastoral festival 'Bihu' by bringing it to the urban stage from the rural surroundings and also popularising classical music in the state.

The inaugural function was attended by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Union Minister of states for Home and Sports Kiren Rijiju and Sarbananda Sonowal respectively along with 'The Assam Tribune' Chairman and Editor P G Baruah.

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