PM warns media of ‘witch-hunt’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday advised the media that the spirit of inquiry must not morph into a “campaign of calumny” and “witch-hunt” is no substitute for investigative journalism.
Speaking after dedicating the National Media Centre to the country, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said: “At times the language and dignity of media discussion can be found wanting. Sometimes I, too, have to confess that the media makes the political establishment uncomfortable.”
At the occasion both Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi lauded the media’s watchdog role. The Prime Minister reiterated UPA’s commitment to “fostering a free, pluralistic and independent media” and said it is a reflection of the entire society.
He said in a vibrant democracy like India, which revels in free enquiry and quest for answers, this is a significant calling. “A spirit of inquiry must not morph into a campaign of calumny. A witch-hunt is no substitute for investigative journalism. And personal prejudices must not replace the public good,” Dr Singh cautioned.
The statement of UPA government’s top leadership comes even as it continues to battle several charges of scams and allegations of corruption.
The centre has been set up by the information and broadcast ministry at the cost of `60 crore in the 75th year of its information wing, Press Information Bureau.
Dr Singh also pointed out that “credibility is the media’s currency and is integral to its contract with the reader or viewer.” He also raised the issue of social media revolution and stated that it had rendered irrelevant the lines between a connected citizen and professional journalist.
“It is essential if we are to avoid the tragedy last year that befell many innocent souls who became victims of an online propaganda campaign and were then driven across the country to save their lives in their home states,” Dr Singh cautioned while calling for mature handling of the social media phenomenon. Ms Gandhi pointed out that the media has a tremendous, almost larger than life impact on our lives. She maintained that media and government often disagree and the edit columns of newspapers and voices on prime-time television.
The UPA chairperson said that while media at times makes the political establishment uncomfortable, she caveated it by saying, “Perhaps this is because we are not always able to put forth our point of view more effectively. Today, we should remember that the need to communicate and inform is as much the responsibility of the government.”
Sonia also defended the UPA government, which has been facing criticism over its Bharat Nirman Campaign, and said, “We do not want propaganda, favour or publicity campaign simply in order to score points for the government but the people have a right to know their legal and other entitlements. They have a right to information and they have a right to be able to make informed decisions. Only an aware and conscious citizenry can be expected to make the system work well and hold governments and political parties to account.”
“We welcome the watchdog role of the media and well founded and well intentioned criticism of our policies and programmes. We recognise that there could be shortcomings that need to be highlighted,” she added.
Gandhi also said that Government and media have a shared interest in disseminating programmes, policies, decisions and information noting that this is where an institution such as the National Press centre assumes importance.

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