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‘Daya, darwaza tod do’

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Sulagna Chattopadhyay , President LIGHTS Research Foundation | 11 May, New Delhi
India’s freedom of press rankings have declined; and media owners and governments are hanky-pankying with the news – so states the Freedom of the Press 2014 Report
Guess the press has taken the ‘daag acche hain’ a bit too far. For one, with the impeccably coiffured front – the press does have an incredibly littered backyard.Below is the Charter of Demands

Media houses should publish details of ownership and funding clearly

At the outset – who are these media owners?

Could we perhaps have a clear listing – clear, not in an obsolete corner of an archived page of a website?

Who are the shareholders and how does the media house fund itself?
The front page of the website, or the classified page of the newspaper, or the ticker of the news channels may be used for all and sundry to see who the media house plays for.  Lobbyists are welcome, surely the ‘mango men’ of independent India have the right to take or leave the argument as they please. If, as an Indian, we can vote for opposing factions in state and central elections, I think we are mature enough to understand and accept lobbying too.

Media houses should lay down hiring and firing policies

The Report cites “dismissal of key editorial staff in several instances”. How can media houses take away key people as they please?
I cannot imagine for an instance the extreme vacuum in our lives, say if Arnab, with his dashing smile and rakish hair, would stop being beamed into our living room and our lives – arbitrarily. He is a national treasure for Pete’s sake – and his employment norms and salary structure as of the several other brilliant bureau chiefs that dot the nation, should be clear. Why are such norms not in the public domain? How and why one may be terminated, or employed for that matter, is all pertinent; and the press needs to lay down norms for itself and declare its employment and salary structures.

Media houses should be made answerable to an independent and neutral body

How about constituting a National Body with representatives of the large media houses, to put together transparency norms for the industry.
Most are aware of the larger press houses, but millions of smaller vernacular press and papers that run at local levels are so full of misreporting and glitches that it would put a fourth standard student to shame.
What about standardizing norms for such irresponsible media? At least an open reprimand from the National Body will knock some sense into corrupt journalists – or does that term even exist?

Larger media houses should contribute to the development of smaller vernacular press

With corporate social responsibility being the rage of the day – should we perhaps hoot for media social responsibility (MSR)?
Perhaps large media houses can look after, adopt or foster smaller vernacular press (not take over) to provide a fillip to free and courageous journalism in the country under its very own MSR. Even media should have some social responsibility apart from just doing justice to their jobs – is it not?

All media houses should publish their financial statements

An annual / quarterly report of each media outfit with their respective balance sheets should be up and about on every website.Summing up, the ‘darwaza’ of secrets that surround funding of media houses need to be torched to allow us to trust, with all our hearts, the freedom of the press.

Which one do you agree with? Vote for your choice below!

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