Is RTI Affecting Press Freedom? Loud Thinks SCP on National Press Day

By OrissaMatters Bureau

National Press Day was officially observed in the auditorium of the Department of Information and Public Relations in the evening of November 16, with Minister of I&PR, Mr. Prafulla Samal in the chair.

Dr. Surya Narayan Mishra, Professor of Political Science, Utkal University, expressed deep dismay over failure of democracy to stay as the stable source of development of peoples and decline of space in mainstream media for the commons in various countries including India.

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak and Ramesh Chandra Mohanty from the Fourth Estate expressed concern over attack on Press under applied democracy as is seen in Orissa in recent days with the Chief Minister dillydallying in taking action against police functionaries that have unambiguously cooked up false cases against reporters even as Sri Pattanayak gave a loud thinking to how shrewdly democracy is replaced with plutocracy by agents thereof in partnership with the owners of media, who attired as editors or assisted by yes-men donned as editors, take advantage of freedom of press and vet and steer information delivery process cleverly against the progressive forces, lest the hidden face of plutocracy comes out to public gaze. The situation in India is so anarchical that in the guise of freedom of information a law like the Right to Information Act has been promulgated that appears pro-people outwardly but inwardly is an instrument to do away with the conscience-keeper role of the working journalists to whom, by way of accreditation, democracy had originally equipped with the discretion to use professional wisdom in choosing what should be reportable in interest of the public. With the RTI, relevance of Press Accreditation is impaired and administration is being dragged into marketplace, which certainly is designed to develop informational anarchy. To sabotage democracy in the guise of democracy is the game that plutocracy plays and RTI as is being officially patronized needs to be reviewed in this light, said Pattanayak.

Dwelling on the precarious condition of journalists in Orissa, Pattanayak pointed out that the incumbent Information Minister, knows that his attempts to bring out a list of journalists working in Orissa is not being possible due to non-supply of acquaintance role by media organizations. But under the Press Council Act, it is the Information Department, which should have been in possession of details of the State’s journalist from the data of income and expenditure of every media house if the annual levy for the Council could have collected by the Government. It is not being done as the Government is not with the people, but with the traders that own the media organizations, he pointed out.

Prof. Biswaranjan, who after retiring from teaching Political Science in Orissa’s top ranking Government Colleges, has been working as the Editor of the daily Khabar since its inception, as the chief speaker of the evening, dwelt on the new face of media, which, to him, has evolved at par with applied democracy. Agreeing with SCP about overcast of plutocracy on political horizon of India, he went further to rue that the media having deviated from its avowed stand to stay as the sentinel of democracy, as a corollary thereto democratic process in the country has been hit hard by mobocracy. To save India from the disaster of electoral wisdom being swayed away by mobocracy, Press shall have to retrieve its role of politico-economic educator of the masses, he said. Earlier a small newspaper owner sans any invitation to speak had taken the microphone to assure the Minister in the Chair that the Press would stand with the Government. The idea was so ridiculous of the occasion that Prof. Biswaranjan, even though the paper he heads as editor is viewed as the mouthpiece of the Government because of super-chief-minister Pyarimohan Mohapatra’s shadow ownership, dismissed the idea and said, if Press would be pledged to Government there would be no Press at all.

Mr. Samal in his Presidential address assured to ensure that Press freedom is not tampered with through any official intervention. Identification of journalists active in Orissa, irrespective of where they work and with who, would soon be published in the official website and all the accredited journalists would be officially covered under insurance with provision of pension to all of them on crossing 60 in age, he declared. Departmental secretary R.N.Dash reiterated official commitment to Freedom of Press.

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