PUCL Bulletin, July 1982
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of expression has always been emphasised as an essential basis for the democratic functioning of a society. The reasons for this are: the right of an individual to self-fulfillment, which right requires the communication of thought; the importance of constantly attempting to attaint he truth, an attempt which is frustrated if information is suppressed or comment blocked; the inherent democratic right to participate in decision-making, which obviously implies the freedom to obtain, communicate and discuss information,; and the practical importance of maintaining the precarious balance between healthy cleavage and the necessary consensus; "coercion of expression is likely to be ineffective (and) . Conceals the real problems confronting a society It is likely to result in neglect of the grievances which are the actual basis of the unrest and thus prevent their correction".* Especially because we are compelled to operate our democracy indirectly, it is of great importance that the citizens should be enabled to know what is happening in different regions and different sectors of the functioning of the society, and to listen to different and alternative approaches and comments, so that they can effectively participate in the process of self-government. If facts cannot be freely presented and comments cannot be freely exchanged, there is no way in which the citizens can even attempt to hold the rulers to account.
A further dimensions to the freedom of expression is added by the existence of mass society in which communication among citizens can take place only through the use of media like the Press and broadcasting and not directly, except in a limited way. With State monopoly over broadcasting which prevails both technical and, in the Indian context, financial, the importance of the Press is even more crucial.
Our actual experience since Independence, and especially in the last decade or so, also suggests that a free and vigilant Press is vital to restrain corruption and injustice at least to the extent that public opinion can be roused as a result of press investigations and comments. Recently a number of injustices and wrong-doings have been uncovered as a result of the initiative taken by newspapers. Whether it is the question of various types of bonded labour in different parts of the country, the misuse of powers by A. R. Antulay or the existence of smuggling rackets on the West Coast, newspapers have served a very useful purpose by exposing them. The fear that the Press will expose such wrong-doing is a major restraint on potential wrong-doers.
Who Threatens Freedom?
Having accepted that the freedom of the Press is of vital importance especially in our contest, the question arises: is this freedom threatened and, if so, by whom?
It has been frequently alleged, especially in India, that the freedom of the Press is in danger because of the ownership of the newspaper industry and the predominance of some newspaper groups and chains. It is also suggested that the editors and journalists cannot have adequate freedom of collecting and disseminating facts and offering comments as they are under the pressure of the capitalist owners. It is further pointed out that free collection and dissemination of facts is not possible in the case of newspapers which depend to a large extent on revenue from advertisements as the advertising interests cannot but influence the presentation of news and comments. Unless this whole structure of ownership and control in the newspaper industry, and also the manner of the economic management of the Press, is changed, it is therefore suggested, the Press cannot be really free.
How far are these arguments
It should be conceded at the outset that, like any large private sector industry, the newspaper industry cannot be influenced by the understanding and approach of those who control it. With modern technology, large newspaper organisations enjoy various economies of scale. Groups and chains of newspapers are therefore in a better position to provide richer fare in their newspapers are bound to be businessmen/capitalists, and their overall approach to the society and its problems cannot but be conditioned by this. That is why we inevitably find that the Press which is commercially organised-not run by political pro-business, pro-capitalist as well as usually a pro-Establishment viewpoint. Few newspapers will endorse a philosophy which goes against the established they would hardly raise their voice, or even offer investigative material, about the working of private trade and industry. When those who own or control newspapers are also involved in other lines of business, their stake in the stability of the system is so large that they would not encourage anything which is likely to create problems in the smooth functioning of the society. With maximum emphasis on stability, they would rather connive with oppression and injustice. Unorthodox and anti-establishment vies may not find much place in the columns of such newspapers, while national chauvinism-even jingoism-may come easily. The recent controversy in a country like the United Kingdom with a long democratic tradition about the somewhat subjective stances taken by the B.B.C. in the Falklands crisis shows how difficult it is for the Press or the media to maintain objectivity. The days that we can forget that appalling experience, when the freedom of the press as well as many other freedoms were seriously endangered in the U.S.A.
No Workable Alternative
But what is the possible
remedy? Public ownership of newspapers in effect meaning State ownership? Is
that what will ensure the freedom of the Press?
The idea has merely to be put forward to see how suicidal such a solution can be. Cooperative ownership could be a possible alternative; but there are few examples anywhere in the world of successful cooperative management of large newspaper organisations, or of any large business establishments. A newspaper industry is an increasingly large, technically complex and managerially challenging industry. Unless we want the newspapers to be poorly produced as a result of continuos inefficiency in their management, we can not but permit good and vigorous managers to control major units in this industry. The choice is between having good newspapers even with the shortfalls inevitably arising out of the inadequacies mentioned earlier, or having poor quality newspapers. What our choice will be is obvious.
Competition The Best Policy
One should also point out that our experience in India is not that all those who own and manage the newspaper industry are taking a uniform approach on important issues relating to vital policy-making in the country. There are differences among them and some do take a significantly anti-establishment line. Though they may not necessarily support socialist or communist policies, they may permit a great deal of criticism of the existing system and encourage information as well as comment along critical lines. The degree of such criticism will vary. But our experience does not indicate that all capitalist owners of newspapers will collaborate and operate in some kind of a collusion. In fact, to the extent that there is competition for increasing circulation, a newspaper is bound to attempt to ensure that it is not found wanting in investigating events and giving information which competing newspapers may provide. The owners cannot therefore take an approach which will reduce the circulation by insisting that it reflect his personal viewpoint rather than attempting to present facts and other materials which the readers would be interested in. A capitalist owner may not necessarily be actuated by any lofty motives; but the possibility cannot be ignored that competing newspapers would forge ahead if the paper is allowed to be too sectional or partial. Experience both in India and abroad also suggests that only large newspaper organisations can resist powerful institutions and persons. A small newspaper would institutions and persons. A small newspaper would have found it difficult to face the wrath of a Nixon.
What is therefore of real importance is to ensure that a certain minimum degree of competition exists in the newspaper world. It is true, as mentioned earlier, that, as in many other industries, technology and other aspects give a significant advantage to large scale organisations in the press industry. It is no longer possible for the number of successful newspaper ventures to be very large. We can only have a limited degree of competition and not anything approaching perfect competition. But this is the difficulty in all modern industries. All that can and should be emphasised is that a reasonable degree of competition should be attempted to be maintained.
This can be done in two ways: Firstly, in any effective circulation area which forms a single market for newspapers, careful watch should be kept on dominant newspapers who control a large proportion of the circulation. In the case of such newspapers the normal provisions of the MRTP Act such as special permission being required for their major expansion or setting up of new papers by them etc. should apply. Careful watch should also be kept on the possibility of their indulging in monopolistic and unfair trade practices. It has been already held that the MRTP Act applies to the newspaper industry. What is necessary is to make sure that the provisions of the Act are streamlined and its instruments given adequate teeth so that the anti-monopoly provisions can effectively operate. This is necessary not only in the newspaper industry but in all industries. The difficulty is that throughout the last ten years since the MRTP Act was put on the statute book, the Government has not rally bothered to see that anti-monopoly provisions become effective. In fact, the tendency of Government has been in opposite direction, Viz, to favour the monopoly organisations.
As for large business houses controlling a number of industries and also newspapers, to the extent that such houses represent a significant degree of concentration of economic power, they would come within the purview of the break-up provisions under Section 27 of the MRTP Act. The government would therefore be in a position to have the possibility of such breakup examined by the MRTP Commission and, if such a break-up is advised in public interest, it can take steps in that direction. The difficulty is that the Government has made no use of this section. The Government appears to be merely wanting to have many powers with it so that it can threaten and intimidate those enterprises, including newspaper ones, which are not ready to toe its line. It is significant that the only instance where the Government thought worth looking at; it was only the Indian Express, because it was proving to be a paper not easily amenable to the wishes of those in power at that time. This inference is supported by the fact that, at the Government's instance, R. N. Goenka was replaced as chairman of the Indian Express group by K. K. Birla, and the Government preferred this arrangement in spite of latter's connections with both a large business empire, and with the Hindustan Times. In thinking of any special powers relating to the Press being given to Government, the very real possibility of the powers being mainly used for arm-twisting for partisan interests should not be overlooked.
Positive Assistance To Independent Papers
At the same time, it is important that steps are taken positively to make it possible for independent papers to survive develop. Assistance to them should be provided through general institutions meant to help the growth of independent entrepreneurs, including small ones. The financial institutions as well as promoting organisations-such as the National Small Industries Corporation-can be used for this purpose. Facilities such as subsidised teleprinter services, and facilitating the setting up of small electronic presses, could be other steps in this direction. The assistance should be granted in a manner where no discrimination among individual papers can be easily made, and where the subsidised facility cannot be misused and encashed. For this reason making available a marketable commodity like newsprint at a specially cheaper price should not be supported.
The dependence of newspapers on advertisement revenue may go against the perspective of some puritan minds about an ideal society. But in a world where mass persuasion is becoming respectable even in communist countries like Hungary and Yugoslavia, we cannot think of advertisement as a tainted source of revenue. At a time when the costs of producing newspapers are rapidly raising, advertisement revenue is the only mechanism which can keep the newspaper prices within reasonable limits. Any attempt by Government to put a restriction to advertisement revenue has to be looked upon as an indirect method of upsetting the economy of newspapers and thus an act which would affect Press freedom adversely. To the extent that a newspaper has a large number of sources from which advertisement revenue flows in, it is less likely to be influenced in its coverage by the wishes of any one of them. A smaller newspaper is more likely to be subject to the wishes of an important advertiser, including the Government. It is therefore necessary to realise that larger appears are less likely to be influenced by advertisers. Further, to the extent that the MRTP Act is effectively used, the power of any one advertiser would be limited. Of course, if the Government chooses to continue to keep the MRTP Act should be available to Government to curb undue concentration and misuse of monopoly powers in the Press industry. It should also be obligatory for Government to consult the MRTP Commission before any action under that Act is taken.
The State- The Main Threat
This insistence is necessary because experience all over the world, as well as our own experience since Independence, suggest that the State remains the source of the most potential threat to Press freedom. It cannot be overlooked that, within a short time after passing the Constitution, those in power - who used to swear by Press freedom before Independence-put in provisos to Article 19 (1) of the Constitution so as to clothe Government with powers to curb Press freedom. This was defended on the ground that these powers were likely to be necessary on occasions when the security of the State was threatened; it was emphasised that the powers will not be normally used. But a special legislation called the Press (Prevention of Objectionable Matters) Act was put on the statute book soon thereafter in 1951. No steps were taken to remove the lacunae which gave Government powers to intercept material going to the Press through the Posts and Telegraphs. Some Chief Ministers thought it proper to take steps against newspapers whose policy they did not like, whether it was a Morarji Desai in Bombay or a Charan Singh in U. P.
A persistent attempt to curb Press freedom how ever really began only after 1969. Indira Gandhi felt that the Press was too critical of her ways and she sought to change its approach. Various threats were held out by Government and steps proposed to curb that section of the Press which was thought to be the most independent. With the aid of some native leftist organisations, a propaganda barrage was mounted against the Press as well as the judiciary both of which appeared to be not easily amenable to the wishes of Government. apparently the only reason why the idea of spreading the equity ownership of newspaper companies especially among the workers and the journalists employed therein was not pursued was the feeling that such a measure would give more power in the hands of trade unions who were opposed to the ruling party. On the other hand, arm-twisting of capitalist owners, especially of those who had many other industrial interests and were not very much concerned with the freedom of the Press, was thought to be not so difficult. The antipathy to the Press however continued and got further intensified, especially as most of the important papers expressed their dislike of the acts of the ruling establishment, and many of them advised the Prime Minster to resign after the Allahabad High Court Judgement in 1975. The antipathy culminated in the pre-censorship imposed in the country for the first time during the internal Emergency. That the pre censorship was used for partisan ends is sufficiently exemplified by the data published as a result of the various enquiries made in 1977-78.* The misuse of powers like pre-censorship was a adequately envisaged by the fact that these powers were even used to black out some unpleasant news about the criminal convictions of an actress, and of some businessmen.
The experience of the Emergency also provided enough evidence to show how weak-kneed a very large part of the Indian Press was when it felt really threatened. One would not have believed that, during the independence movement, a much larger proportion of newspapers had faced difficulties and shown courage. The poor morale of many editors and others concerned was aptly characterised by the Janata Government's Minster for Information and Broadcasting who told the Press that, when they were only asked to bend, they crawled! Nevertheless, there were brave exceptions; and it is important to note who they were. Two of the so-called monopoly papers resisted encroachment on their freedom and faced considerable risks. These were the Statesman and the Indian Express. Of course even a more valiant attitude was shown by independent, small journals like Sadhana (Marathi), Bhoomiputra (Gujrati), Seminar (a monthly journal) and Opinion (a weekly sheet); but these were run by individuals or groups who had a commitment to certain values and where the overall financial stake, the number of employees etc., was not very large. A very large proportion of the regular Press offered little resistance and gradually accepted a kind of self-censorship. That the ruling group was thinking of controls over the Press as a permanent measure was indicated by the putting on the statute book of the Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matters Act in 1976. It was also known that the spokesmen of Government were threatening newspapers about "consequences", after the censorship was lifted and general elections announced. These threats indicated what might have been in store for the Press in the Congress party had won the elections in March 1977.
The Press began to act with great vigour almost as a rebound after the Emergency was lifted in 1977, and especially after the change brought in as a result of the elections in March 1977. The Janata Government and the short-lived Lok Dal Government, felt the thrust of this vigorous assertion of independence by the Press. This was also the time when the Press specially developed new traditions of investigative journalism, which has now become a major feature of an increasing number of important newspapers.
Since January 1980, with the change of Government, the attitude of the Government of India toward the Press has reverted back to one of antipathy. Many of the new State Governments which came to power in the middle of 1980 have shown active hostility. Instances of threats to the free functioning of the Press are not uncommon. There was the instance in Bangalore when, as a result of the publication of a press report which was disliked by the Chief Minister, there was a kind of gherao of important papers so as to prevent their publication on one day and the police practically pleaded helplessness to do anything about the matter. There was another instance of a former Chief Minister who compared the Press to snakes and scorpions. The Tamil Nadu Government, belonging to a different political party, has put special curbs on contacts between Government officials and the Press, and has stiffened the Cr. P. C. in a manner which would make "scurrilous" writing a nonbailable offence and also one where imprisonment on conviction is made obligatory as a punishment. The Prime Minister herself has indicated more than once her dislike of the manner in which what is called the National Press operates.
Hostile Attitude of Those in Power
The basic attitude of those who are in power has been one of wanting the Press to conform. This is specially clear from the official attitude to the manner in which the broadcasting media under direct Government control are to operate. The demand that broadcasting media be separated from the direct tutelage of Government, and the work be entrusted to an autonomous corporation, has been put forward for a long time. But this has been resisted by all those who have been in political power at the Centre. The Government of India had appointed in the 60's a committee (the Chanda Committee) to go into this question and it recommended an autonomous set up for the All India Radio. But the Government continued to ignore this recommendation. In fact, during the Emergency, spokesmen of the Government continued to ignore this recommendation. In fact, during the Emergency, spokesmen of the Government made it quite clear that they thought it quite right that the broadcasting media should propagate only the official viewpoint. The Prime Minister herself had clearly state in 1975 that All India Radio is "a Government organ, it is going to remain a Government organ It is there to project Government policies and Government views. It does not mean we do not give the views of other people, but primarily its function is there to give the views of the Government of India". The Prime Minister justified this by stating that "in no country in the world, in no developing country, do they even allow anybody else to appear or any other viewpoint to be projected'.
Though the Janata Government appointed a committee (B. G. Verghese Committee) to examine this question, and the Committee recommended the setting up of an autonomous body for taking charge of broadcasting, the Janata Government, and also the short-lived Lok Dal Government, took no steps to pursue this recommendation and to make All India Radio autonomous and largely free of Government control. This is an adequate indication of the battles that may always have to be fought, whichever party is in power, to ensure that media of mass communication are permitted to operate freely.
A more recent indication of the Government's indifference to the economic functioning of the Press is provided by the Government's imposing an import duty on newsprint at a time when various costs of the newspaper industry, including the newsprint prices in the major supplying countries, have been rapidly escalating. To impose a duty on newsprint which would further enhance the costs of producing newspapers, in a country where the incomes of the common people are very low and where the circulation of newspapers is still very small, is hardly calculated to ensure wider circulation of newspapers. The proceeds of the wider circulation of newspapers. The proceeds of the import duty form such a minor part of the Central Government's revenue that if the duty was not imposed it would have meant no real difficulty for the Government. In spite of widespread demand in the Press, the Government continues the import duty for a second year, only making it specific instead of advalorem.
State Powerful in India
A further point of importance in this context is that, because of the necessity to ensure planned development of our economy, considerable powers regarding various aspects of the economy have been conferred on Government. With the attitude of the Government of intolerance of criticism as indicated earlier, the possibility of the Government misusing these powers against the newspapers whom it considers hostile is very real. Not only that Government misusing these powers against the newspapers whom it considers hostile is very real. Not only that Government has considerable powers which can be used at its discretion under statutes like the IDRA and MRTP Act, but here are also other powers such as under import control, the grant of credit through banks the bulk of whom are in the public sector, and even services provided by public utilities like Posts and Telegraphs (including telephones), and power supply. Normal credit facilities may be denied, power supply may be cut off or made irregular (ostensibly on technical grounds), or postal and Telegraphic facilities may be discriminatingly used, to harass newspapers whose policies are disliked by those in positions of political power. Government advertisements and advertisements by the large and expanding public sector business organisations may be denied or they may be used in such a discriminating manner as to favour or disfavour particular newspapers. The overall powers of the State may be used to create difficulties for independent newspapers and news people. Even police protection may mysteriously disappear when well organised mobs gherao newspaper offices and threaten it with violence. Enough data are available to show that these are not merely theoretical possibilities but realities which face the Indian Press. It is therefore clear that the main threat to press freedom in India arises from the executive power of the State, both at the Centre and in the States. What is likely is not so much a direct and overt act of nationalisation as what may be culled salami tactics of putting curbs in an increasing and steady manner through various obstructions and threats.
It is also necessary not to ignore the fact that the traditions of democratic polity and essential freedoms have not had a very long innings in India. Intolerance of inconvenient speech or writing therefore comes easily to many people in the country. Enough data are available even about happenings in recent years to illustrate this, Chhabirani episode in Orissa being one of the most notorious ones. Investigative journalism, when it touches some vested interest or the other-whether it is in politics, castes, property rights, trade unions, or any other-is in special danger as a result of persistent threats of violence. It would not be wrong to say that the greater the distance of the journal or the journalists from metropolis the greater the risk, though it is not as if such danger is quite absent even in metropolitan areas.
The intolerance of critical references is further exemplified in the attitude shown by many legislators to the question of legislative privileges. Even though it is now more than 30 years since the Constitution was passed and the idea then was that the privileges of legislatures would be codified within a few years, no legislature in India has yet taken any steps in that direction and there appears to be almost a consensus among legislators to avoid such codification. The result is that the possibility that a legislature may treat a particular reference as an infringement of legislative privilege is a kind of Damocles' sword on the heads of newspapers. It does not infrequently happen that legislators utter obscenities, trade in abuses and generally behave in an undignified manner. If the presiding officer expunges such words, or decides that nothing will go on record, the idea is that publication of such part of the proceedings, even if it has taken place, is not to be reported; and if it is, is may be treated as a contempt of the legislature. This is strange logic indeed. What actually happens, is actually said, is treated as if it is wiped out by the decision of the presiding officer and is not to be reported. Unlike in some foreign legislatures such a sin the U.K., it is not an odd word here or there which is expunged but, frequently, whole passages. A citizen who is present in the visitors' gallery is obviously a witness to what happens; but those who are not present are not expected to be informed through the Press of what actually happened. One does not understand by what logic such an approach is taken. On the other hand, it is only proper that the citizen should have the maximum access to information about what his representatives do, the manner in which they behave, or misbehave.
Importance of Constitutional Amendment
All these difficulties in the way of ensuring that the Press can have the maximum freedom to carry out its function of collecting facts about different facets of national life, analysing them and commenting upon them so as to keep the general body of citizens in our young democracy well informed show that the Press requires some special protection. Many authorities have held that the Right to Freedom of Speech conferred by Article 19(1) of the Constitution is adequate to protect the freedom of the Press. Judicial decisions have however made it clear that the Fundamental Rights are conferred only on citizens and not on associations of citizens. In the present times, no newspaper or other periodical can normally be brought out by individuals; it can only be brought out by corporate bodies. Moreover, it has also been held by Courts that, in view of the limitations put under Article 19 (2) etc., pre-censorship can be imposed on newspapers even when the country is not faced by an Emergency due to external aggression or internal rebellion or similar circumstances. That governmental authorities can be tempted to use such powers purely for partisan purposes was adequately proved in 1975-76 and, more recently, in Assam. There is also some uncertainty about whether some provisions in the Indian Penal Code cannot be used as a coercive instrument against the Press. It appears therefore necessary that a specific Constitutional amendment so as to confer the right of Freedom on the Press in particular and on media of communication in general needs to be taken up in right earnest. If the general body of citizens in a vast country like ours is to be kept adequately informed both about the actual events and about alternative approaches to meeting the country's problems, it is essential that the freedom of the communication media is protected by a specific Constitutional provision to that effect.
Such a specific provision will enable newspapers and journalists to obtain judicial protection from direct as well as indirect threats. It would not then be impossible for a newspaper which may receive unfair treatment from those in charge of functions like import control, power supply, bank credit or communication facilities to obtain judicial redress if it can be shown that the discrimination is due to its being a newspaper which is critical of those in power.
Codification of Legislative Privileges
A complementary measure will be to insist upon the codification of legislative privileges, with the proviso that where a breach of privilege is alleged, the legislature should only be permitted to file a complaint, the decision regarding whether contempt is proved and, if so, the punishment to be awarded being left to a Court of Law. The idea that the legislature should itself be both the accusor and the judge might have had a historical reason in England; but there is not reason for such a fundamentally unjust approach to be accepted in our context.
Press Needs To Improve
It may be asked: Would this be enough to ensure that the Press is left genuinely free to carry out the functions that it must perform? Would it not be necessary to think of some other, more positive, steps to ensure that the press does not remain a hand-maid of only the powerful in the country?
The inadequacies of the Indian Press need not be connived at. There is no doubt that private bussiness- and those who control it- are treated by most newspapers with kidgloves. This partly because of the ownership of many newspapers and therefore the philosophy of those who are appointed to senior journalistic positions. The trade union side of industrial disputes, the approach of the political parties on the left side of the political spectrum and the difficulties of the unprivileged and the dispossessed have received far less attention than other smaller but influential sections and vested interests in the vast bulk of our newspapers. It should, however, be said that the situation is changing for the better. Competition, and also the increasing influence of professional journalists, are making it difficult for newspapers to ignore these various aspects. It is well known that the blindings at Bhagalpur, the treatment of workers as bonded servants by many landed interests, the exploitation of child labour in slate factories, or of female labour in bidi factories ore even of adult workers in asbestos factories have been brought to light not by small newspapers but by large ones which are many times dubbed by critics as belonging to the Monopoly or the Jute Press category. This tendency shows that to the extent that at least some degree of competition can be ensured in every circulation area chances are that there would be a fair degree of investigation of different types of events.
A part of the answer to the difficulties lies in making it possible for independent newspapers and especially periodicals to operate without too much handicap. But, even then, such newspapers may not be as successful as the large ones operated as capitalist undertakings. Their workers, including journalists, may have to work at a sacrifice. But unless there are elements in the country which are ready to work with self sacrifice and zeal for causes in which they believe, new and unorthodox ideas cannot develop and new political groups cannot emerge. There have been examples of such efforts such as the daily Shramik Vichar run by some trade union groups in Pune. There was even an attempt at running a paper devoted to the requirements of the district of Pune which however did not continue for long. Real entrepreneurship in this field would consist of such efforts and, except for direct and discretionary subvention, various other steps can be taken to help the whole category of such newspapers and periodicals. This would make it possible for the larger newspapers to be kept on their toes.
Even though investigative journalism is fast developing in India, the quality of the Indian Press in many respects leaves much to be desired. Even though, as a result of various awards, the emoluments of journalists have considerably improved in the last few years, adequate talent is not still attracted to this field. There is also a great deal of lethargy which leads to large scale reproduction of speeches as well as gossip from the corridors of power instead of well organised news. The tendency even of some of our top newspapers to rely on articles from the foreign Press when dealing with world affairs shows a lack of initiative in developing Indian talent for analysing world problems from the Indian point of view.
With some exceptions, there has also not been enough effort to develop interest in news, other information and comments on aspects of life other than politics, crime and sports. Investigative news collection can be of great use in matters like the operation of Plan programmes and projects. In some newspapers, useful reports of investigations in sectors like power and irrigation have recently appeared. But this is still experimental and confined only to a few papers. Such inadequacies can be overcome only with better training, more competition and greater professionalisation. There are no short-cut remedies for this.
The most serious inadequacy relating to the Indian Press is to be found in newspapers published in Indian languages. Most of them are poorer in quality as compared to newspapers in English. This is so even in respect of Indian language papers belonging to same groups. This obviously happens because the managements of such groups continue to think that the prestige of the group depends more on the English language newspapers than on the Indian language ones. It is quite obvious that the number of those proficient in English will not expand as rapidly as that of the literate in various Indian languages. The demand for Indian language newspapers is already expanding faster and this trend will be further accelerated in future. As the number of legislators who understand English declines, it is essential in public interest and for the proper functioning of our democracy that the quality of the more important Indian language newspapers improves rapidly. Special steps such as the development of teleprinter services in Indian languages and support to the adaptation of the best techniques for printing Indian language newspapers should be taken by the Government so as to help.
The Main Goal - Growth with Freedom
We have had a wrong set
of priorities regarding the Press. Even the first Press Commission appeared
to have been more worried about what are called chain newspapers rather than
about the very inadequate circulation of all newspapers - chain and non-chain
- in the country. Even the so-called chain papers still hardly boast of a circulation
which would have any relevance to the numbers of people in our metropolitan
and urban areas, leave alone in the countryside. It needs to be emphasised that
the topmost priority in India should be to help all newspapers to develop both
in terms of circulation and quality. It will take all types-chain and non-chain,
multi edition and single edition, group and non-group, large kind of Press that
the largest democracy in the world requires and deserves. What should never
be overlooked when thinking of the Press in the Indian context is that it is
only a free Press which can help develop a body of citizens who are well informed
both regarding current events and also about the problems facing the country;
and the alternatives available for tackling them. It is only such a Press that
can enable a young democracy like India to survive, and also help its development
in a manner where social justice is ensured and the interests of the common
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