National Press Day was observed on Nov 16 across the country. The day is marked to commemorate the establishment of Press Council of India-“a moral watchdog to ensure that press maintain the high standards expected but that it is not fettered by the influence or threats of any extraneous factors”. The Press Council by its own admission is a watchdog but it has largely remained toothless even as India grapples with raising number of crimes and intimidation against media personnel.
But nonetheless, the day is remainder on the importance of the press freedom towards a vibrant democracy.
To mark the day, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the media through Twitter where he expressed his government’s commitment to uphold the freedom of the press and the expression in all its forms. The Prime Minister in his message added that free press is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy.
But the prime minister know that press today is far from free. The Reporters Without Borders in its world press freedom has placed the country at an abysmal 136th among the 180 countries ranked in 2017. It slipped three places from 2016 which is a testimony that not all is well.
In the wake of BJP’s growing version of nationalism fronted by the Prime Minister, those who dare to question the government has been at the receiving end. Self censorship for survival was bound to follow.
Quality journalism will happen only when there is respect for freedom of speech, expression and space. So far, it appears that government is not too keen on giving that space.