Vice President Md Hamid Ansari extolled the vision of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at an event to release National Herald’s commemorative edition. The newspaper, launched by Nehru in 1938, is set to resume publication in print and digital forms.
“In this age of post-truths, and alternative facts, where advertorials edge-out editorials, we would do well to recall Nehru’s vision of the press playing its role of a watchdog in democracy and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism,” he said at an event held in Bengaluru.
“Jawaharlal Nehru was described by Gandhiji as ‘an artist, an ardent patriot, a humanitarian and an internationalist.’ his journalistic ethics were a reflection of those of the Mahatma,” the Vice President said.
Welcoming the move to re-launch the publication, which played an important role in India’s struggle for Independence, the Vice President said the paper became the voice of the independence movement.
“Its banner of ‘freedom in peril’ has an abiding relevance,” he added.
Terming the press as a tool of national awakening in the days of Independence struggle, he stated that journalists in those days “were not mere news providers”. They were freedom fighters and social activists, who fought not only to rid India of foreign rule but also to rid our society of social prejudices, casteism, communalism and discrimination, the Vice President said.
“The most inspiring of the journals, like Tribune, Hindustan, Leader, Sudharak, Kesari, Akbar-i-Aam, The Hindu and Swadesh were edited by prominent leaders like Tilak, Gokhale, Subramanya Iyer, Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya and Agrakar. It was summed up by a poet Khincho na kamanon ko na talwar nikalo… Jab top muqabil ho to akhbar nikalo,” VP Ansari said.
Stressing on the freedom of press and rights, he underlined that a free media is necessary in a free society.
“If press freedom is attacked, it will result in the jeopardising of citizen’s rights. When faced with unjust restrictions and the threat of attack, self-censorship in the media can have the opposite effect, aiding the covering up of abuses and fostering frustration in marginalized communities,” he said.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Chief Minister S Siddaramaiah were also present at the event on Monday.
The publication, defunct for nearly nine years, has been in news due to a legal issue involving its debt. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders are fighting the case in a Delhi court.