Tuesday 26 October 2021

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Issues | Right to Info

Guv assures to uphold press freedom

 

A statement from Governor Dr P C Alexander that no power in the country can water down press freedom has come as a sigh of relief to the striking journalists against a draconian clause in the recently passed Right to Information bill.

Maharashtra governor Dr Alexander, who is also holding additional charge of Goa, has been requested not to give assent to the bill which includes the anti-media clause. It provides to penalise anyone who publishes information sought from the government in a 'malafide and distorted manner'.


Though Dr Alexander refused to comment on the bill, he asserted at a press conference that no power in the country is in a position to dilute the press freedom and there exist enough constitutional safeguards to protect it. Also referring to series of assaults on journalists taking place in Maharashtra, he feels this cannot be a ground for an apprehension that freedom of the press is under immense threat.

The journalists here are however up in arms over the manner in which all the 40 legislators have come together to gag the press, as this clause gives them powers to file cases against journalists, interpreting any news or comment as malafide or distorted. In protest, the local newspapers have suddenly withdrawn themselves from giving undue publicity to all the politicians, including the ministers and the opposition parties.

More agonised with the clause are the editors as the offence is cognizable and also penalises those who "causes it to be published". "Actually the bill should penalise these politicians who give all false information to the public", says Rajan Narayan, editor of O Heraldo.

Following a walk out from the Assembly, spurt of protest actions have begun, embarrassing the Congress government as well as the opposition. Journalists wear black badges at press conferences, and even refuse to get entertained with refreshments or dinner parties.

Following a well-attended dharna held in the city this week, protest morchas have begun along with NGOs at district and taluka level. "We will now go to the public since government is blocking information from them by muzzling the press", says Prakash Kamat, president of the Goa Union of Journalists.

"We strongly condemn yellow journalism, but would like to point out that there are several civil and criminal reliefs available to the victims of yellow journalism. Is it really necessary to have one more penal provision", asks Ashwin Tombat, secretary of the Editors' Guild.

"It's a sad story that politicians pass a legislation curbing the fundamental right to speech while the country is celebrating 50th year of its independence", says Adv Vishwanath Lawande, vice president of the All India Freedom Fighters' Association.


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