The Press, like the Judiciary, has to be free from political, government or any other interference. In fact, it is the solemn professional duty of every journalist to be totally independent and unbiased with no leanings whatsoever towards any political party or politician. This holds good equally to those in print media as well as in the electronic media. Freedom of the press and Freedom of expression are fundamental to the very survival of any democracy.
However, sadly today most of the journalist fraternity in Goa have become a mouthpiece of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, patently falling prey to his strategy of carrot and stick, to cunningly manage and manipulate a large chunk of media.
This is nothing new for the current Chief Minister who is very intolerant to any criticism. In fact, during his earlier tenure as Chief Minister he had, in 2002, served a legal notice, warning the editors of all newspapers in Goa. Not long ago he openly threatened some newspapers with stoppage of Government advertisements, to coerce them to toe his line.
But for the social networking sites like Facebook,WhatsApp, Twitter and some Goa related internet web sites, we would have been in the dark about the true state of affairs in Goa. So, through his chums setting up fake IDs, Manohar Parrikar has also started targeting the internet sites.
The threat to freedom of the press in Goa hangs like the proverbial sword of Damocles. The current government cannot claim to respect the freedom of the press. The press is considered to be the watchdog of democracy. Sadly, there is scant regard for this truism in Goa, and the irony is, our country is the world’s largest democracy.
There has to be a way to ensure that the newspapers do not end up being dependent on government advertisements. Journalists should also not fall prey to the crumbs and largesse from Politicians and return the favours with censored news.
Self-discipline, which is so crucial for the survival of any democracy, is fast disappearing. Tolerance levels are declining and arrogance is all-pervasive. More often than not, political power is used to further the cause of the power-hungry rather than to serve the masses. The press, on its part, should bear in mind that freedom of the press does not mean a license to write anything that suits those in power. This freedom is precious and it has to be used judiciously and fairly. When this freedom is misused to keep those in power content, the public respect for this profession is bound to diminish.
May the words of Thomas Jefferson inspire all those in that noble journalism profession “When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”