‘Oo Needs Buckshee Press Anyway?

freedom of speechMay 3rd heralds the world free press day.

The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines and the honour of a police station lawyer—H.L.Mencken.

I remember the day of UG the underground paper at Manipal; it was very popular though free people did not mind paying a rupee to book their copies in advance.  Name of the editor was not revealed, the frustration of the student community, the juicy gossip would be there. Somehow information published in UG was considered authentic.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expressions: this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. The press has not only been a collective propagandist, and a collective agitator it has also been a collective organizer of the masses. The press must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press.

When the brits took the nation over they controlled education, the media savvy M.K.Gandhi and the British media created such a persona that he still lives on today so is the shadow cast by Nehru. Indira Gandhi curtailed the press with emergency, and Maneka created the Surya newsletter to help Indira get back to power.

Every year, reporters without borders establish a ranking of countries in terms of their freedom of the press. The world-wide press freedom index list is based on the responses to surveys sent to journalists that are members of the partner organizations of RWB, there are related specialists like researchers, jurists and human activists. The survey asks questions about direct attacks on journalist and media as well as the indirect sources of pressure against free press such as non-governmental groups. RWB is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom and does not ensure the quality of journalism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index will help you find the global free press status.

The press, the machine, the railway and the telegraph are premises whose thousand-year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw. The telegraph however seems to have faded and the press have lost its credibility. There was a time when Journalists and journalism meant something. It meant people with visions and passion, it meant people who shaped the thinking of the generation, it meant people who stood for values and issues.  It’s no more the case we can cite corruption, greedy journalist, seedy politicians as the excuse.

How do we buy our paper? I remember my father and grandfather discussing “Indian express is just anti-establishment.” The Hindu has good language. Sorry Times of India you were never in the reckoning.  There was no page three hype, movie information was out once in a week. Personal life stayed personal. Again Hindu focused on the Chennai news, while Indian Express was wider in its news net.

What really has changed or rather who really has changed is the reader… from a reader he has turned consumer.

  • Our decision to buy a particular newspaper lies on

o    whether door delivery is available,

o   What are freebies that come with it?

  • Most of us are very Hindu… we believe in vasudaiva kutumbakam, we don’t think small, the local issues they are too piddly for us, we focus on global issues, obamacare, global lifestyle etc.
  • Page3 is the biggest selling attraction.

If a newspaper that costs Rs.5/- for printing reaches your door step at Rs.2/- the balance gets picked up by the advertisers, then the policy of the newspaper is dictated by the advertisers. The visual media and newsrooms are quite open about their loyalties and that the loyalties can be bought, however when the public’s right to know is threatened and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold are endangered.  But when the advertiser controls the loyalty of the press, the advertiser controls the shaping of opinions and information sharing. Where is the free press?

When you think of it, the freedom of expression,  needs freedom on thinking, freedom in thinking needs  information—knowledge – application—vision – passion and commitment, are we really up to it? Or will we continue to accept being treated like morons who cannot think beyond facials, food and page 3?

In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed May 3rd each year to be world Press Freedom Day. This recognizes the value of freedom of expression and the sacrifices the journalists have made to attain this freedom. It was created, and is sponsored in the united states.

Each year UNESCO awards the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom prize to someone who has made a major contribution towards journalistic freedom.

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