Media and Muslims

Newly appointed chairman of Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju has expressed his views about reining in the electronic and print media’s efforts to metamorphose the image of Muslims. Justice Katju who recently retired from the Supreme Court and as a judge of the apex Court pronounced many historic verdicts. He is not only just and a man of spotless personality, he also enjoys great respect. After taking over as the Chairman of Press Council of India whatever he said to media persons at a press conference at his residence can be described as the best effort to put a brake on the perversion of the media because of the way a large section of print and electronic media is engaged in disintegrating the fabric of society is extremely dangerous. This gives the impression that media is not only free from all kinds of responsibility and restraint but it enjoys complete freedom to print and propagate just anything. This is inspite of the fact that Press Act is in force under which such restrictions have been imposed so as to prevent it from taking undue advantage of freedom of the press. In this way Press Council of India is working as an institution whose basic duty is not only to check the perversity of the media but also to rein in those who misuse freedom of speech and press and to make them law abiding.

Justice Katju said in clear words that the trend in the media is that it presents all Muslims of the country as terrorists and blasters of bomb whereas the fact is that 99 percent Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and followers of other religions are gentle and law-abiding people. He said that the way news of bomb blasts are presented on T.V. channels and in newspapers give the impression that all Muslims are terrorists and bad people, which is totally against facts. Giving an example in this connection he said that recently immediately after the bomb blast near Delhi High Court and also those at Mumbai, Bangalore etc. many news channels started proclaiming that Indian Mujahideen or Jaish-e Muhammad, Harkatul Jehad-e Islam have sent emails and SMS claiming responsibility of these blasts. He said that names of such organisations suggest that they must be Muslims. Any mischievous person can send such emails but news channels start presenting it and the very next day print media also presents it prominently as if all Muslims are terrorists. Making an appeal to the media to be cautious and exercise restraint in this connection, he said that the aim of the person/s sending such emails and SMSs can be or is to promote hatred between Hindus and Muslims. He said that ‘divide and rule’ was an old and tested formula of the British and asked if, knowingly or unknowingly, media also should be a part of this policy of the former British government?

These words of Justice Katju are of special importance seeing that he said all this in his capacity as head of an institution whose job is to keep an eye on the media and to control its waywardness. Press Council of India is a legal institution where one can lodge a complaint against wrong, misleading and mischievous reporting or rumour by any newspaper. On such complaint/s the Council issues summons to the concerned newspaper for questioning and seeks an explanation/clarification. However, till date this institution has not been able to do something effective except condemning the newspaper or asking it to tender an apology for some mistakes or false reporting; but after taking over as head of the Press Council Justice Katju suggested some proposals to rein in unbridled newspapers and electronic media which, if implemented, could control to a large extent the perverted media. These suggestions include imposing fines on such newspapers, depriving them of government advertisements and even cancelling their licence etc. Before him no chairman of the Press Council of India had suggested such bold and effective measures and the Press Council had been working as a toothless body. (Jadeed Khabar Urdu daily editorial, 13 October 2011 - translated from Urdu)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2011 on page no. 12

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