New Delhi: The media’s role and the need to protect it from the pressures exerted by the government and the corporate world came up for discussion at the Congress plenary on Saturday.
A panel discussion on the “power of truth”, a feature added to the plenary’s schedule for the first time, turned into a lament about the pro-BJP, pro-government bias in large segments of the media.
The discussion focused largely on the purported degeneration of the media and the need for reform in ownership structures but provided little by way of new insight.
Former minister Kapil Sibal stressed the need for legal intervention and reforms to address the media houses’ over-reliance on the market and government largesse for survival.
Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala regretted the lack of courage and independence shown by the media at large.
Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev spoke about fake news and the power of advertisement.
The discussion, moderated by veteran journalist and Rajya Sabha nominee Kumar Ketkar, referred to some news channels’ knack for brazen propaganda and the government’s purported influence on their daily agenda.
“It’s not only (that they launch into) pro-government rants, issues related to religion and terror are invented to divert attention from the scams and misdeeds of the government,” Surjewala said.
Rajeev Gowda, and MP, condemned the falsehood and sensationalism that he accused segments of the media of peddling.
Ketkar said this was an era of half-truths, post-truth, fake news and lies and issued a warning about the control the media exercised on the public mind.
He said a “paid army” had been created to manipulate the public discourse on the social media and recalled how Adolf Hitler had used propaganda to perpetuate his fascist agenda. He also highlighted the Congress’s failure to counter falsehood and the Sangh narrative.
Veteran editor Mrinal Pande, the only independent voice on the panel, admitted that the media’s character had changed dramatically and that public interest was no more the overriding concern for most media institutions.
She referred to the decline of the institution of the editor and the growing control of the owners over editorial decisions.
Pande also explained how the economics of the print media had increased its reliance on market forces and the government.