New Delhi, Aug 24 IANS | 2 years ago

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday asked the media to exercise caution in its reportage to ensure that a "spirit of inquiry" does not "morph into a campaign of calumny".

Speaking at the inauguration of the state-of-the art National Media Centre here, the prime minister said "credibility is the media's currency and is integral to its contract with the reader or viewer".

"In a vibrant democracy such as ours, which revels in free enquiry and quest for answers, this (media industry) is a significant calling. But there is need for caution while executing this responsibility. A spirit of inquiry must not morph into a campaign of calumny. A witch hunt is no substitute for investigative journalism. And personal prejudices must not replace the public good," he said.

He said the media has to exercise a sense of responsibility for social harmony and public order, and referred to the violence and the exodus last year of thousands of people from the northeastern states back to their homes in the wake of morphed images and mass text messages spreading misinformation.

"There is also the question of a certain responsibility for social harmony and public order," he said, stressing that this was more relevant in the light of the social media revolution.

"A mature and wise handling of this phenomenon is essential if we are to avoid the tragedy last year that befell many innocent souls who became victims of an online propaganda campaign and were then driven across the country to save their lives in their home states," the prime minister said.

Referring to the ownership of media houses by business houses, he said it is a "reality that journalism cannot be divorced from the business of which it is a part".

But the "tussle between bottom-lines and headlines," should not lead to a situation "where media organisations lose sight of their primary directive, which is to hold up a mirror to society and help provide a corrective.

The prime minister said the media and civil society are an essential part of democracy and nation building. And with India placed at a "decisive stage" in taking its "rightful place in the comity of nations", he exuded confidence that both sectors would not "be found wanting in this collective effort to consolidate India as a plural, inclusive and progressive society".

The prime minister reiterated the UPA government's commitment to "fostering a free, pluralistic and independent media" and to provide people knowledge and information "so as to equip them to respond to social, economic and technological challenges."

Through the innovative use of social media, the prime minister said he was confident the government would "address and strengthen the communication needs of an aspirational India and connect with our younger generations."

The four-storeyed, modern media centre, with a gleaming glass facade in the heart of the capital's government district and close to Parliament House, has been modelled on media centres in Washington, Tokyo and other major capitals.

(Posted on 24-08-2013)