Addressing a gathering at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism awards ceremony in Delhi, President Ramnath Kovind said that the fundamental principle of restraint and responsibility has been undermined substantially in the din of the breaking news syndrome. He further said that the “din of the breaking news syndrome” has consumed the media and asserted that fake news has emerged as a new menace whose purveyors proclaim themselves as journalists and taint the noble profession.
“Old-timers would recall the magical touchstone, the five Ws and H (what, when, why, where, who and how), whose answers were essential for a story to qualify as a news report. In the din of the “breaking news” syndrome, that has consumed the media now, this fundamental principle of restraint and responsibility has been undermined substantially. Fake news has emerged as a new menace, whose purveyors proclaim themselves as journalists and taint this noble profession,” the President of India added.
He said that technology has given rise to a new breed of journalism, which stands in contrast to traditional journalism. This development has revived the old debates about the status of facts and opinions, about credibility and authenticity, he said.
“What is desirable is objectivity, which allows journalists to be open to facts, and present all sides of a picture. Fidelity to facts, digging for the truth and keeping one’s lens clean and sharp is imperative.”
“I am aware that journalists tend to wear many hats in the line of their duty. These days, they often assume the role of an investigator, a prosecutor and a judge — all rolled into one. It requires a great deal of inner strength and incredible passion for journalists to play so many roles at a time to arrive at the truth. Their versatility is praiseworthy,” President Kovind noted while delivering his keynote address.
However, he also sought accountability from journalists for their unbridled power. He asked, “But that prompts me to ask if such a sweeping exercise of power is accompanied by genuine accountability?”
Remembering veteran journalist Ramnath Goenka, in whose honour the controversial Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism is distributed annually, President said, “Ponder for a moment as to what Goenka Ji would have done, had he encountered a crisis of credibility on account of paid news or fake news. He would never have allowed the situation to go adrift and initiated measures for course correction for the whole media fraternity. There is no doubt that journalism has been passing through a critical phase.”
Advising the journalists President Kovind said that the quest for truth is, of course, difficult and easier said than done, however, it must be pursued.
“A democracy like ours deeply relies on the uncovering of facts and a willingness to debate them. Democracy is meaningful only when the citizen is well informed. In that sense, excellence in journalism grants full meaning to democracy.”
“If journalism has to remain relevant, it has to retain its sense of mission, it has to reclaim its values of honesty and fairness. It has to, 24 by 7, reinforce its compact with citizens: That it will not bend, that it will always fight for the truth no matter what the consequence, and that it will remain committed to finding the truth without fear or favour.”
This year’s Ramnath Goenka awards ceremony yet again stoked controversy after two journalists from a far-left fake news website – the Quint with questionable integrity was honoured with awards. Meghnad Bose, who was accused of sexual harassment at the height of the MeToo movement won an award for his propaganda documentary ‘Lynchistan’, while Poonam Agarwal who was booked in a case of abetment to suicide in the matter of an Army Jawan’s death due to a piece of ‘sting’ journalism also won an award for her reports on electoral bonds.