TODAY -

Nobel for journalists, Wow !

Free Thinker *



It is really great to hear the incredible news that two journos have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The reason for giving this coveted prize to them is that they fought for the freedom of press despite tremendous odds and coercion.

They are Maria Ressa of Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. Ressa is the one of the founders of news site Rappler and Muratov is one of the oldest associates of Novaya Gazeta, which is the most independent newspaper in Russia. According to Nobel Committee they are awarded with the prize because of their courageous fight for freedom of expression in their respective countries.

Diogenes also known as Diogenes the Cynic, was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic Philosophy. He was best known for holding a lantern or candle to the faces of the citizens of Athens claiming he was searching for an honest man (recalled by Jug Suraiya in TOI).

Perhaps the Nobel Foundation or Nobel Committee is playing Diogenes. Honest reporting is still a far cry in the world today due to many constraints and restrictions. We hope this Prize will encourage fearless and honest reporting everywhere.

The Nobel Committee remarked “the two are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions; freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.”

There is something called World Press Freedom Index. India is among the top 180 countries where press freedom is respected and nurtured. I am told that freedom of press is not up to the mark in the United States; they are at number 44; UK is slightly better at 34 and France is also like that at number 33. Press freedom is at the top in Norway and Finland-you can write, speak, publish, broadcast, forecast, podcast, anything and everything in these countries (very little restrictions).

India is better than Pakistan and much better than China; I really don’t believe in such rankings and ratings. World knows that we are the biggest democracy and the USA is the greatest democracy and UK is the oldest modern democracy. Of course the oldest ancient democracy could be traced back to Athens or Cholas or the Licchavis .

In this age of ‘Pegasus’, tracking and tapping, the reporters, media persons, correspondents, Editors can hardly keep anything in confidentiality. They can’t even protect the source; they can’t even give a free run to the whistle blower. They can even share the info.

They are under severe surveillance. If you are anti establishment – your business and media house is under threat. This is bad for democracy. Let the anti establishment press also survive and prosper, because without them democracy is tasteless and meaningless. Without criticism how can we grow? Only praises and eulogizing make things worse.

The real duty of media is to find fault with the powers that be. They are supposed to be the watch dog of the society. They are supposed to be the watch dog of all the three organs of the Government. If the fourth pillar i.e., Media is merged with any of the pillars, democracy is weakened.

Today you are in power and tomorrow you will be in Opposition. Let the media play a free role; let them criticize you; let them find fault with you. Then let your politics, policies, performance, caliber, oratory and positive energy overcome the challenges and criticisms. Prove them wrong. Win the hearts of the people.

In the middle of World War II, a man (probably a freelance journo) was arrested in London for calling Winston Churchill the British Prime Minister a fool; Opposition flayed the PM and Government left and right - are we living in a police State ?

Prime Minister Churchill responded, the man was not arrested for calling the Prime Minister a fool but for leaking a State secret at the time of war. I don’t know the credibility and authenticity of this story. But I really relish the story. We can learn how to handle odd situations by merely delivering humor and wisdom.

I stand by the media liberty and freedom of the Press. If we lose it we are losing the true spirit of democracy. We may not accept it but we will certainly feel it.

When majority of the press and media starts praising the Government day in and day out, that is the moment for those in power to be cautious and careful. Something could be seriously wrong.

In our country we have those three unspeakably precious things – freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to practice either - these are the words of Mark Twain in America, the greatest democracy. Perhaps we are also following the same as the biggest democracy.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 16 2021.



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