There can be no regulation of the media in a democracy, feels Information and Broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who says self-regulation is good.
However, he says, there is a feeling that social media is “going haywire”.
“In a democracy, in a free society where freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution, you cannot have regulation of the media, this is my conviction,” Naidu told PTI in an interview.
He said self-regulation is good and what is required is not a new bill but political will and administrative skill. “That is lacking at some places,” he added.
The minister, however, added that if at the end of the day, there are violations, there are laws of the land which are available already.
Freedom of expression is best utilised only when the value of such freedom is fully appreciated, he added.
“When this freedom is not exercised is judiciously, our existing laws provide for necessary interventions. We are not thinking of any new restrictions on any media. But the government expects all stakeholders to be responsible in using different platforms.” the I&B minister said.
He said for the media, there are some regulations like it should not preach something which is anti-national, not propagate against the interest of the country aspects like obscenity, vulgarity, encouraging violence etc.
“There are already broad guidelines and stipulations under the law also and they will take care of these aspects,” he said.
“For the mainstream journalists, there is some regulation by their organisations and management. But for social media there is no censorship, things go directly, he said.
“There is slowly a growing feeling of social media going haywire. And we have to find ways and means to go about it. But at the same time if you start regulating media, the effect will not be positive. Keeping that in mind, regrading social media also there are enough laws to take care of social media also and those laws should be effectively and properly used,” Naidu said.
Naidu said that politicians may at times may not have the will to apply these laws as they do not want to pick up quarrel with media which is quite powerful.
“Media is so powerful and some of the politicians are so weak they don’t want to use the law which is already available – Why should I quarrel with them? I say it is not a quarrel, as long as you are within line, you have every right, you must fight.
“We have the great examples of Ram Nath Goenka, late C R Irani, Ramoji Rao. They have fought against the mighty,” he said.
Speaking about social media, Naidu said it is an area of concern because it is immensely popular.
Naidu said that while there are concerns about the unregulated content on social media, he emphasised that regulation was unlikely to bring any positive results.
On the role of media, he said that the duty of media is is to inform but stories should not be invented or created.
“News should be news, views should be separate…. Of late, this tendency has erupted in certain sections of Indian media, which is creating distortion, of combining news and views,” he added.
He said that news organisations should never get identified with any party as it affects their credibility.
Naidu also said that the media should avoid sensationalism as well as obscenity, vulgarity, violence should be reduced while terrorism, extremism and anti-social activities, they should not be highlighted as if they are heroic acts.
Citing his own experience in Parliament, Naidu said that he once gave a comprehensive speech on agriculture which the media almost entirely ignored.
“If Naidu had torn some papers or gone to the Well of the House, then it becomes news. This is a development of recent years, which is bad,” he said. Media should try to support the constructive, he said.
Naidu also said that there are about one lakh newspapers in the country and about 890 TV channels which are set to expand more and more as the appetite for information and entertainment of 125 crore people keeps on increasing.
“Our people fiercely guard the right to freedom of expression. This is valued even more than economic advancement,” he said.
He said that social media is a new tool of communication with its own distinct features and advantages.
“It is spontaneous and interactive. Such a medium is both an opportunity and a challenge. While we believe in people taking full advantage of this new medium, we expect them to make judicious use of it in the larger national and individual good,” Naidu said.