In an unusual move, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday advised the media not to do “dishonest reporting” by exaggerating or blacking out news and events.
The advise from the Deputy Chairman P J Kurien came after opposition MPs raised the issue of big media outlets not publishing the constructive debates and suggestions they had made in the debate on electoral reforms in the Upper House yesterday.
Raising the issue when the House met for the day, Naresh Agarwal (SP) said the country expects that what transpires in the House is truthfully reported.
But only the nuisance that the MPs create by rushing into the Well or shouting slogans gets reported, he said.
As was stated by Sharad Yadav (JD-U) in the debate yesterday, biggest newspapers did not publish a word on the suggestions on electoral reforms, he said asking the Chair to give a direction to the media.
“You cannot scold but can give direction that whatever positive discussions happen should be reported and not just negativities,” Agarwal said.
Yadav said the debate on the issues got “buried within the four walls of the House” and went on to state that the media freedom has now become the freedom of individual owners and not journalists.
Kurien asked what can the Chair do about media not publishing any news.
Yadav said a law should be brought to bar cross-ownership by not allowing media barons to venture into other businesses.
Anand Sharma (Cong) said the media played an important role in democracy in sensitising public opinion and ensuring the balance of narrative on important public issues.
But the views of the opposition, which matter a lot, irrespective of its size and strength, must get adequate space in the media, he said.
However, Swapan Dasgupta (Nom), himself a columnist, said it will be a “dangerous” for the government or Parliament to start giving instructions to the media.
Kurien said the issue can be discussed if a proper motion is given and went on to say that there is no point blaming the media.
Citing a Malayalam saying, he said if a dog bites man, it is never news, but if a man bites dog, it is big news.
“If you (MPs) sit properly and make speeches, it is no news. But if you misbehave, it is news,” he said. “However I would like to add that media is the fourth pillar of democracy. They should be responsible and do honest reporting.”
Kurien further said that if any news is exaggerated or blacked out is dishonest reporting.
“If something happens and it is exaggerated, it is dishonest reporting… if a positive news is blacked out, it is also dishonest reporting,” he said.
“For the sake of democracy, truthful reporting has to be adhered to by the media,” the Deputy Chairman said.
During the debate yesterday, opposition members had expressed concern over alleged misuse of the media by political parties during elections and said paid news was distorting the electoral system. They had sought a law to restrict media owners from holding cross-businesses.