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Media essential for democracy: Mara

Media essential for democracy: Maran

The Hindu (New Delhi)
August 29, 2000

CHENNAI, AUG. 28. As the media shapes and moulds public opinion, and
sets the political, economic and cultural agenda of the nation, it is an
essential attribute of the democratic process, the Union Minister for
Commerce and Industry, Mr. Murasoli Maran, said today.

Inaugurating the Asian Media Institute (AMI) and the 2000-2001
journalism education programme of the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ),
he said informed jour5nalists were needed for the functioning of

However, freedom of the press faced bottlenecks in the form of the
attitude of secrecy of the Civil Services, he said.

While highlighting the importance of journalists adhering to objectivity
and truthfulness in reporting, he quoted Nietzsche that there were no
facts, but only interpretations.

Facts were indeed sacred, but journalists had to be selective in
choosing to report from several facts. Also, there was the question of
whose facts to report, he said.

The Karnataka Minister for Information and Publicity, Prof. B.K.
Chandrashekar, presiding over the function, cautioned the media against
sensationalising news.

Expressing hope that the press would use the right to information in
public interest, he said competition among satellite channels was
leading to excessive reporting of violence and crime. Such reporting was
actually encouraging further violence, he said.

The Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University,
Prof. Tom Goldstein, called for developing new standards in the context
of the emergence of the internet as a source of news.

In the age of the new media, anyone with a modem could be a publisher.
"We are still struggling with the conception of issues arising from
that," he said. There was no gatekeeping in the internet, he added.

In this context, he welcomed efforts to prevent journalism from
disappearing in the world of communication and to identify enduring
principles of the profession stressing on obligation to truth and
loyalty to citizens.

Referring to the course at the ACJ, he said there must be a balanc4e
between thinking and doing in learning the craft.

BBC Worldwide's Managing Director for Europe, West Asia, India and
Africa, Mr. Mark Young, said the purpose of the broadcasting course was
to make students who would otherwise have become "good" journalists. Two
scholarships would be provided to meritorious students.

The CPI(M) leader, Mr. Sitaram Yechury, said reporting could be
distorted merely by distorting the context even while being true to the
text. The AIDWA leader, Ms. Subhashini Ali, underscored the importance
of women's issues finding place in the public sphere.

The trustee of the Media Development Foundation (MDF) which set up the
AMI, Mr. N. Ram, said the ACJ, originally started in Bangalore, would
function in Chennai with its scope expanded and its content
restructured. The course would be characterised by academic rigour, and
the students would be given hands-on training. The emphasis was on
'practical journalism'.

The course would have three main streams: print, television and
web-publishing. BBC World-wide would present a ten week course on TV
news journalism. Satyam Infoway would support the new media centre which
would be named after the organisation. The Ford Foundation had announced
scholarships for women students from non-privileged and historically
disadvantaged sections.

Earlier, addressing a press conference, Mr. Ram said the institute,
apart from offering an intensive course in print, television and
internet education, would soon provide in-career training for early and
middle-level journalists and promote media-related research in India.

Specialised modules of short duration would be devised for the benefit
of media professionals. These could be available from October this year.
As research on Media was neglected in the Indian context, the AMI would
promote such research, he said.

The MDF chairman, Mr. Sashi Kumar, said the educational arm of the AMI,
the Asian College of Journalism, would sensitise students to environment
issues, and equip and train them in all facets of the profession to make
them ideal journalists. The AMI was also thinking in terms of extending
the course in Indian languages, he added.

The ACJ, which was modeled on the graduate School of Journalism of
Columbia University, was located in the middle of the city. Though the
fee structure was high, it was fair and sustainable.

The MDF trustee, Mr. N. Murali, said there was a felt need for a media
training institution of quality.