Laxmanrekha for Journalists: Nothing but Rubbish

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Currently, and curiously after skirmish between Orissa’s Revenue Minister and Media persons on September 15 in the State Secretariat in the Minister’s chamber, there is a hogwash, apparently promoted by powers that be, that, the journalists in their attempt to get information should not cross the ‘Laxmanrekha’.

Even a senior fraternal brother – whom I adore – in his natural desire to see the charisma of Press gets no more affected, has added a bit force to this hogwash, by innocently opining that the ‘Laxmanrekha’ should be adhered to.

As it silently upsets the distinction of Press, I would like first to reflect on ‘Laxmanrekha’.

What is ‘Laxmanrekha’?

It is a machination of strangulation of human rights. A contrivance of a way to restrict freedom.

Let us go to its root.

In denying Sita the right to move freely even in the premises of their cottage in the Jungle, her husband’s younger brother Laxman of the epic Ramayana had drawn three lines in his arrow on the soil, saying, “you can come thus far, but cannot go any farther”. This is known as Laxmanrekha.

No journalist is supposed to be a Sita and the so-called Laxmanrekha has no applicability to journalism.

People in a democracy have the right to be informed and the journalists are duty bound to serve that ‘right’. So, ‘Laxmanrekha’ does not fit into their scheme.

Whosoever of the journalists favor the concept of ‘Laxmanrekha’, argue that, media persons should end their endeavor to elicit answers when a minister, a political leader or a public servant refuses to respond to their queries. ‘Right to silence’ as legalized in Nandini Satpathy Vrs P.L. Dani case, perhaps instigates them to advance such suggestion.

This is not acceptable

This legal phenomenon is relevant to public prosecution, but cannot be acceptable in matter of public information and the people’s right to information. Article 20(3) of Constitution of India has no applicability to journalists endeavor to obtain information for the public.

The way the country has been forced to change into a plutocracy, and the way political leaders have become lawbreakers in rising numbers taking advantage of readiness of many in the executive government to go to any extent to satisfy their avarice, and the way India is crumbling into “Two Indias” in terms of highest judicial wisdom expressed in observation of the Supreme Court – a ‘small India’ of the ultra-high-net-worth-individuals counting at best a couple of hundreds and the ‘large India’ of the wretchedly poor innumerable Indians – and, amongst many other syndromes, the way implementation of labor laws and other welfare Acts are declining, and the way welfare programs are being hijacked by the rich for benefit of the rich in which the politico-executive nexus is helping them; it is time for the journalists to be assertive, to refuse to be brow-beaten, to side with the poor and disadvantaged, to be the voice of the voiceless, to ignore the functionaries’ pleas of privacy, to elicit information from them for the public at any cost; and for this, to ignore the concept of ‘thus far, no farther’ must be a must for the journalists; because. it is incumbent upon them to stay sentinels of the people.

Be it appreciated that a sentinel never bothers about restrictive laws in his act of safeguarding the master i.e. in this case the people of this country, who are so betrayed and so severely jeopardized by strengthening of plutocracy.

No journalist should, therefore, feel any qualms in adopting any available method to elicit information from escaping politicians and public functionaries as people have the right to be informed; and in this lies the key to emancipation.

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