BHOPAL: Several officers from the All India Services, attending the 91st Foundation Course at the Academy of Administration here, were in agreement in pointing out how a big section of the media is now resorting to extortion, black mail, sensational reporting, and thriving on paid news and political patronage geared to serve the vested interests.
The young officers/probationers were sharing their grass-root level experiences during an interactive session that followed after senior journalists – Lalit Shastri, Editor-in Chief Newsroom24x7 and formerly the State Correspondent for The Hindu, Anshuman Tiwari, Editor-Hindi India Today and Girish Nikam, Cosultant Rajya Sabha Television – had adddressed them on the theme “Role of Media and Governance”.
While an IPS officer underscored the menace of ‘belt shops” (unauthorised liquor outlets) in a southern State of India and how the muffosil journalists at the taluka or district level were providing them cover with full support of politicians, an Indian Forest Service Officer expressed dismay over the lack of education and expertise, experience and commitment of journalists covering the intricacies of forest management and the nitty-grity of enforcing the provisions of the Forest Rights Act. With the enactment of FRA, he said we have a scenario where the encorachers and unlawful settlers on forest land are now legal owners of the same land that is now being used by them for agriculture purpose and this has resulted in excessive biotic pressure.
There were others who raised the issue of Left wing extremists and Moaists in States like Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. It was their contention that while some States have adopted a firm policy and taken adequate measures to address the problem, some others were soft peddling the issue and a lot needs to be done in terms of training and preparedness of the security forces involved in anti-Maoist operations. They also agreed to the pointer by one of the panelists that there should be total coordination and both the Police and district administration should work as a cohesive unit against left extremism.
Addressing the officers, Anshuman Tiwari of India Today, focused on the historical perspective and said evolution and progress of humankind has been marked by great inventions. He talked of the advent of the printing press and how it transformed people’s thinking across Europe about 500 years ago. He also drew attention to the use of printing press which was restricted to religious texts in the Arab world for many centuries. The internet is another invesntion that has given a new dimension to media and expanded its reach manifold, he said adding we all know how the internet played a central role in the coup of Egypt.
Girish Nikam of Rajya Sabha TV advised the officers to maintain communication with journalists and act as parteners with them to serve the common good. Sharing his own experiences, he said there are both good and bad officers just as there are good and bad journalists. It is important to recognise the serious and committed journalists, he added.
Lalit Shastri of Newsroom24x7.com said journalists should follow the path of inquiry with utmost devotion becuase truth is sacred. He underscored the important role journalists can play to ensure accountability and keep the government on the right path. Illustrating this, he cited one of his own reports published by The Hindu and its impact. In June 1993, there was an exclusive news story by him, Shastri said and informed the officers how the then Madhya Pradesh Governor Kunwar Mahmud Ali Khan had communalised the Bhopal police stations in the post-Ayodhya riot scenario when the State had been placed under President’s rule. As an obvious follow-up of that story the Governor was sacked on June 23, 1993 at the direct initiative of the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
Sudhir Kumar, IFS, Officer on Special Duty with the Academy of Administration and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, also addressed the officers.