Media bashing by legislators shameful

Vitriolic media bashing that a section of legislators of the Karnataka Assembly and the Council indulged in during the last session of the State Legislature was neither new nor unexpected. They keep doing so periodically, but ultimately, better sense prevails. However, what was new this time was that Speaker K B Koliwad, who seemed to take a special interest in the debate, decided to constitute a joint legislature committee to ‘study’ the adverse impact of ‘wrong reporting’ and suggest rules and regulations for news coverage by the electronic and print media. The speaker should have known that there are legitimate and well-defined forums to question the media’s actions and the legislature has no power to regulate its functions. Many senior legislators, including those of the BJP, and a minister, have opposed the constitution of the committee. Speaker Koliwad should see reason and wind up the panel.

Considering that a majority of people’s representatives have come to rely on media for keeping in touch with their electorate and need the media almost like oxygen for survival, it is in their self interest to have a healthy relationship with it. Being in public life, they ought to realise that the media can only be a bridge between them and the people they are supposed to serve, and cannot become their lapdog. It is the duty and responsibility of the media to highlight their follies and criticise them when they do go wrong – which is the essence of good journalism, and indeed, of democracy. If the legislators do not agree with the criticism or feel genuinely aggrieved with perceived distortion of facts or find their reputation maligned by the way the reporting is done, they have several courses open to find remedy — file a case for defamation and damages in a court of law, give a complaint to the Press Council of India or request the speaker to refer the matter to the privileges committee of the legislature. It was interesting to note that the most passionate arguments to ‘control’ the media came from those legislators who had been caught on camera exposing their misdeeds and they did not elicit any support from their colleagues.

Media is ultimately answerable to the people and it is only self-regulation that can work effectively. Recen­tly, some of the electronic media refrained from show-ing the visual clipping of a minister in a compromising position; this was a healthy sign which was appreciated by the public. If the legislators do have genu­ine grievances with the media, the speaker could call senior representatives of the media for an interation with them and find an amicable solution.

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