CHENNAI, Nov 6: Observing that editorial freedom must be used wisely in public interest, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the press, called the Fourth Estate, was definitely a power, but to misuse that power was criminal. Participating in the platinum jubilee celebrations of the leading Tamil daily ‘Daily Thanthi’ here, he said today, newspapers do not just give news.
”They can also mould our thinking and open a window to the world”, Mr Modi, who highlighted the role played by Daily Thanthi over the last seven-and-a-half decades sand paid rich tributes to the contributions made by its Founder C P Adithanar, said.
In a broader context, media was a means of transforming society, he said, adding ”that is why we refer to the media as the fourth pillar of democracy”.
Recalling that the then British Government was fearful of the Indian Vernacular Press, the Prime Minister said it was to muzzle vernacular newspapers, the Vernacular Press Act was enacted in 1878.
The role of newspapers published in regional languages remains as important today, as it was then, Mr Modi said.
Noting that he had often heard people wonder, as to how the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper, Mr Modi said the editorial freedom must be used wisely in public interest.
”The freedom to write, does not include the freedom to be ‘factually incorrect’. Mahatma Gandhi said “the press is called the Fourth Estate. It is definitely a power, but, to misuse that power is criminal”, the Prime Minister said.
”Even though media may be owned by private individuals, it serves a public purpose”, he added.
”As scholars say, it is an instrument to produce reform through peace, rather than by force. Hence, it has as much social accountability as the elected government or the judiciary’, Mr Modi said.
Pointing out that today, every citizen analyses and attempts to verify the news that comes to him through multiple sources, the Prime Minister said the media, therefore, must make an extra effort to maintain credibility.
He also said healthy competition among credible media platforms was also good for the health of the democracy. Stating that a lot of media discourse today revolves around politics, he said, ”however, India is more than just us — politicians.
”It is the 125 crore Indians, which make India what it is”, he averred.
”I would be happy to see media focus a lot more, on their stories, and their achievements”, Mr Modi said.
Noting that natural calamities seem to be occurring with increasing frequency across the world, the Prime Minister asked whether the media could take a lead in the battle against climate change.
”Can media devote just a little space to report or increase awareness about what we can do to combat climate change”, he asked.