Stating that journalism has been passing through a critical phase, President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday said fake news has emerged as a new menace whose purveyors proclaim themselves as journalists and taint the noble profession.
Speaking at the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, he said stories exposing great social and economic inequalities are ignored, and their place is taken by trivia.
“Instead of helping promote scientific temper, some run after irrational practices in their search for eyeballs and ratings, “Ram Nath Kovind said.
The fundamental principle of restraint and responsibility has been undermined substantially in the loud noise of the breaking news syndrome, he said.
“In the din of the ‘breaking news’ syndrome that has consumed the media now, this fundamental principle of restraint and responsibility has been undermined substantially,” the President said.
Ram Nath Kovind said old-timers would recall the magical touchstone of the five Ws and one H (what, when, why, where, who and how) whose answers were essential for a story to qualify as a news report.
“Fake news has emerged as a new menace whose purveyors proclaim themselves as journalists and taint this noble profession,” he said.
Ram Nath Kovind said Ramnath Goenka would have never allowed the situation to go adrift and initiated measures for course correction for the whole media fraternity.
“There is no doubt that journalism has been passing through a critical phase,” the President said.
He said that journalists tend to wear many hats in the line of their duty.
“These days, they often assume the role of an investigator, a prosecutor and a judge — all rolled into one,” he said.
Ram Nath Kovind said it requires a great deal of inner strength and incredible passion for journalists to play so many roles at a time to arrive at the truth.
Addressing the gathering comprising a large number of journalists, the president said the quest for truth is, of course, difficult and easier said than done. “But it must be pursued,” he said.
Ram Nath Kovind said a democracy, like ours, deeply relies on the uncovering of facts and a willingness to debate them.
“Democracy is meaningful only when the citizen is well informed,” he added.
He said technology has given rise to a new breed of journalism which stands in contrast to traditional journalism.
“This development has revived the old debates about the status of facts and opinions, about credibility and authenticity. What is desirable is objectivity, which allows journalists to be open to facts, and presents all sides of a picture. Fidelity to facts, digging for the truth and keeping one’s lens clean and sharp is imperative,” he said.
Earlier, Chairman and Managing Director of the Express Group Viveck Goenka said there has been a sharp drop in the quality entries from TV channels among the broadcast entries and more and more purely digital players are doing better work.
“Clearly the noise at 9 pm and a number of faces crowding the screen, the TV screen becoming one large WhatsApp group where the anchor is the administrator, this does not translate into stellar work,” he said.
The president said good and excellent journalistic work needs to be nurtured more than ever as we are “inundated with social media that provokes rather than informs, that encourages echo rather than reflection, whose credibility is in perpetual doubt”.
Quoting cult poem ‘Hum Dekhenge’ of revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz which is in the centre of recent debates on channels, Chief Editor of Indian Express Raj Kamal Jha said there is more ‘Hum Dekhenge’ than ‘Hum Sunenge’ on TV.
“It defines no cut-off date. It does not ask for any identity proof. What it needs is a pencil, a notebook and two feet firmly planted in the middle. However strong the tug might be from either side. Only then it can tell stories as there is never one story,” he said.
Referring to protests across the country on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Jha said these young women and men “stepping out of the cold into the cold” and are marking out public squares.
One can agree or disagree with them, he said.
“They are the architects of space which may look very divided but is very valuable. For that space goes beyond the patch of pavement in a city. It includes the space in which we sit here this evening, in which we hear voices which we haven’t heard before. It is a space that needs to be secured because it secures your and our space,” he said.