‘Licensing journos: recipe for total state control’

22 August 2013

Ravi_pic_ram_leiceL1000002_croppedThe following is the full text of the statement issued by N. Ravi, president of the Editors’ Guild of India, on the proposal mooted by minister of state for information and broadcasting, Manish Tewari, on a “common examination” for student-journalists and a “licence” for journalists to perform their function:

“The suggestion of the Union minister for information and broadcasting, Manish Tewari, that journalists should be tested and licensed to practice the profession is a recipe for the total state control of the media.

“Licensing of journalists is an obviously undemocratic practice that has been condemned repeatedly by international human rights organisations including the Inter American Court of Human Rights. Requirements such as membership of a particular organisation, specific qualifications and licences issued by the government are tools used by totalitarian states to control the media.

“The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution and it is open to every citizen to practise it through the media subject only to restrictions on the grounds specified in Article 19 (2).  The reporting of facts and the expression of ideas is the right of every citizen and to require the passing of a test and the possession of a licence issued by the government would be a violation of the very concept of freedom.

“People with varying qualifications, ideas and interests should be allowed unrestricted access in the exercise of their right to free speech through the media.

“Besides, the media deal with the whole gamut of issues touching on the society– from political, economic and social issues to health, religion, art, literature, cinema, music and travel– and unlike in the case of some of the professions such as law and medicine, there is no fixed or identifiable collection of works or coherent body of knowledge on which journalists could be tested.

“In this age of citizen journalists, bloggers and social media and Internet users, it would be ridiculous to introduce any restriction on who should practise journalism even if it were possible to enforce it.”

***

Business Standard has an editorial on the topic:

“Charitably, Tewari’s point could be taken as an opportunity for the media to introspect as to why there are many calls for it to improve the quality of its output. There is little doubt that, as the media space has exploded, much has been produced that is not of sufficient quality or reliability or even credibility.

“Of course, whether this requires a licence-permit Raj to be introduced for journalism is another question altogether—though a reflexive belief in the virtues of control is the hallmark of the Indira Gandhi-loving United Progressive Alliance, which is in so many fields apparently desirous of returning India to the 1980s.

“Actually, it is diversity that should be prized in an open society with free expression, not uniformity and “standardisation”. It is ridiculous to imagine that an examination, however tough, would, in any case, weed out the corrupt and the incompetent. If that were the case, India would have had the most incorruptible and most efficient bureaucracy in the known universe.”

***

Madhavankutty Pillai in Open magazine:

“The exam and licence for journalists is couched as a measure for the benefit of the profession. It comes on the back of the Press Council of India Chairman, Markandey Katju, floating a similar proposal some months ago. Both are symbolic of our great faith in question papers despite overwhelming evidence that it is possibly the worst way to create an institution.

“IAS and IPS officers, the frame that rules India, are selected on the basis of one exam and what it churns out is an effete, morally compromised, characterless group. People with high IQ and a good memory can clear these exams but it guarantees nothing in terms of either integrity, efficiency or common sense.

“Both Katju and Tewari were lawyers and it is probably the Bar Council exam that they have as a model. Which makes what they propose even more ridiculous if you consider the state of the legal profession in India. The standardisation it has created is in the art of perpetually delaying a case, bribery as a legal strategy and the fleecing of clients.

Also read: Poll: common exam, licences for journalists?

A “license” for journalists is not a ‘sine qua non’

External reading: How licensing journalists threatens independent news media

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One Response to “‘Licensing journos: recipe for total state control’”

  1. Col (r) Sekhar Says:

    Dear Sir,
    1.It is easy for many of us to understand as to why the media fraternity is hugely exercised over the issue of “licensing”The I&B Minister has set the cat among the pigeons.Considering the track record of this Government, we can be safely sure that nothing much will come out of this suggestion.
    2.Yet, I am amused with the brouhaha raised by journalists and assorted media organizations about state control.
    There are plenty of issues for the media to introspect and take voluntary action to retain at least the ground left over (from a rapidly slipping base of credibility); not the least due to inane breaking news, hyper patriotism, paid news, the influence of big business,and most importantly, rank incompetence.
    3.One example will suffice.I am a former soldier, a proud one at that; still, the mute button is my best ally when we have instability on our borders with Pakistan and China.The shrillness, instant judgements,and the mandatory tu tu main main between the Congress and the BJP is a serious health hazard.
    4.The statement made by N Ravi that “there is no fixed or identifiable collection of works or coherent body of knowledge on which journalists could be tested” is interesting, to say the least.
    5.The media fraternity may be better served if they avoid falling into the trap of saying that “freedom is at peril”to rally the troops(which may work for a short while)and focus on the long term sustainability of the fourth estate in a polity whose appreciation of national interest is suspect.


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