Freedom of expression and the responsibilities that come with it with particular reference to the media were discussed by eminent persons as a part of Slant 2016, the annual fest of National School of Journalism, recently in Bangalore. The Panel discussion was followed by a press conference. Students from Christ College, Kristu Jayanti College and Presidency College were present at the discussion.
The panel comprises Professor MV Rajeev Gowda, Member of Parliament; Dr. Thomas Thangaraj, professor emeritus at Emory University, Atlanta, a visiting scholar at Harvard, and Boston University, the Dean of academic affairs at NSoJ; Mr HS Balram former resident editor of The Times of India, Bangalore and now the Director of NSoJ; Mr Baba Prasad, former Associate Editor of The Hindu and, senior faculty member at NSoJ; Mrs. Saswati Chakravarty, a veteran business journalist, who started Bhasha News Media in 2010 and now consulting editor as well as senior faculty at NSoJ; and senior journalist and editor, Dr. Narendra Pani.
Prof Rajeev Gowda spoke on Section 66A of the constitution and the issue of censorship affecting the freedom of expression. He talked about the political and corporate ownerships hampering the role of media. Dr. Gowda said that,” öff-the record” statements were being published, and touched upon the sting operations.
Dr. Thangaraj, scholar of religion, who touched upon the freedom of expression and responsibility in terms of religion, said wrong reporting of religious events could create a disharmony in society. He said it was the responsibility of religion to discuss religion and engage in self- criticism. The Media should know they have a power of creating public opinion that come with responsibility, he added.
Mr HS Balram, highlighting the problem of the media said: “Do, we are damned; don’t do, we are damned”. He said the media had forgotten the limits they were expected to be within; Ugly competition and race for high TRP rate, especially in electronic media, had added to the mess, he said. Though the media had unveiled various scams, they should see themselves in the mirror he said, “I hope the media get back to their responsible selves.”
Dr Narendra Pani brought up the impact of technology on the media and how it had lead to the birth of “anonymity”, where anyone could say anything without a filter. Mrs. Chakravarty started by posing a question to the media if they had ever heard the politicians say, “we have been misquoted”? She said freedom of expression was not an inheritance; it was what one made out of it. She said, “Does your freedom of expression give you the right to offend people?” She raised several questions before students to ponder over. They included “is trolling freedom of expression? Do people troll just for fun? “. She said that on social media sounding smart had become more important than sounding relevant.
Mr Baba Prasad said the media had a duty to follow along with freedom. He ended the discussion on a positive note saying media were part of society and exercising freedom of expression come with considered responsibility. Sounding optimistic he said the Indian media had done remarkably well, notwithstanding the deviations witnessed from time to time.