Indian media slammed by Dy Chairman Kurien in Rajya Sabha

Sriparna Ghosh
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien

The Rajya Sabha on Thursday advised the media not to do "dishonest reporting" by exaggerating or blacking out news and events.

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This advice came from Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien against the backdrop of opposition MPs raising the issue of big media outlets not publishing constructive debates and suggestions that they made on electoral reforms in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, March 22.

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Naresh Agarwal of Samajwadi Party, who raised the issue in the house, said, "The country expects that what transpires in the House is truthfully reported. But only the nuisance that the MPs create by rushing into the Well or shouting slogans gets reported."

In Wednesday's debate Sharad Yadav, from the Janata Dal (United), had stated that big newspapers had not published a word on the suggestions on electoral reforms. He even asked the Chair to give a direction to the media in this regard.

"You cannot scold, but can give direction that whatever positive discussions happen should be reported and not just negativities," Agarwal said.

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According to Rajya Sabha TV, Yadav said that the debate on the issue got "buried within the four walls of the House" and went on to state that 'media freedom' has now become the freedom of individual owners and not journalists.

When asked by Kurien about what can the Chair do on media not publishing any news, Yadav said a law should be brought to bar cross-ownership by not allowing media barons to venture into other businesses.

Anand Sharma of Congress said the media played an important role in democracy in sensitising public opinion and ensuring the balance of narrative on important public issues. But the views of the opposition, which matter a lot, irrespective of its size and strength, must get adequate space in the media.

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However, MP Swapan Dasgupta said it will be "dangerous" for the government or Parliament to start giving instructions to media.

Kurien said the issue can be discussed if a proper motion is given and went on to say that there is no point blaming the media. He even cited a famous adage, "If a dog bites man, it is never news, but if a man bites dog, it is big news."

"If you (MPs) sit properly and make speeches, it is no news. But if you misbehave, it is news. However I would like to add that media is the fourth pillar of democracy. They should be responsible and do honest reporting," he added.

Kurien further said that if any news is exaggerated or blacked out that would amount to dishonest reporting. "If something happens and it is exaggerated, it is dishonest reporting. If positive news is blacked out, it is also dishonest reporting. For sake of democracy, truthful reporting has to be adhered to by the media" he said.

Opposition members also emphasised on the alleged misuse of media by political parties during elections. They said, "Paid news was distorting the electoral system" and sought a law to restrict media owners from holding cross-businesses.

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