Freedom of Press should not be used to abuse, says Justice Anang Kumar Patnaik of the Supreme Court

By A.K.Mohapatra with pictorial input from Dhirendra Kumar Das
Freedom of Press should not be used to abuse any individual or institute in manners conducive to public mischief, advised Justice Anang Kumar Patnaik of the Supreme Court of India, while felicitating distinguished senior journalists at Bhubaneswar on 16 November 2012 at the behest of National Journalists Welfare Board, on the occasion of National Press Day.

The Right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Art.19 (1) (a) of the Constitution is conditioned with reasonable restrictions and hence, the axiom of freedom of press generated by the Supreme Court of India out of the said Article should not be taken as absolute freedom, he said. Making a mention of Lord Leveson Commission constituted by UK to look into culture, practices and ethics of the media, which has given birth to broiling debates there, Justice Patnaik cautioned the journalists that if press in India is to stay free from any official formulation, they should adhere to the environment of self-regulation.

Recapitulating how he was inspired by certain scribes of Orissa in his formative days, Justice Patnaik lauded the press persons for their contributions to India’s pre and post independence role in shaping up a better world to live in. Therefore to him it was a great pleasure to have an opportunity to felicitate some of the leading lights of journalism, he said.

The event was supported by Central Government’s Press Information Bureau, Field Publicity Directorate, All India Radio – Cuttack, Door Darshan Kendra – Bhubaneswar and Amit College of Journalism.

Eminent author and Editor of Samaya, Satakadi Hota was felicitated with ‘Sambadik Ratna’ award even as ten distinguished senior journalists of Orissa were felicitated with accompanying pension organized by NJWB, which is considered first of its kind in India. Four Journalists from outside Orissa – Santos Pande, Deepak Kumar Rath, Punit Nanda, and A. Santosh – were also felicitated with Sambadika Gaurav decorations.

Rajyasabha member Baishnav Parida announced allocation of funds for a well equipped Ambulance to be used for journalists under medical exigencies, which the concerned officials would draw from his MPLAD accounts.

Minister S. N. Patra, Minister Arun Sahu, Mayor Anant Narayan Jena, local MLA Bijay Kumar Mohanty, besides Sri Parida addressed the event that was preceded by a symposium on Freedom of Press in the forenoon.

Ms. Shanti Snigdha Mohapatra was felicitated with Rabi Mohanty Memorial Shield for having achieved the first position in Journalism under the Utkal University.

The event was presided over by journalist Pradosh Pattanaik.

NJWB General Secretary Sanat Mishra coordinated the function and Vice-President Pradyumna Mohanty proposed the vote of thanks.

On behalf of the state department of Culture and Door Darshan Kendra Bhubaneswar, eminent music director Basudev Rath and Bikash Das conducted a grand program of entertainment in honor of the Press Day.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

I got an invitation to attend National Press Day at IDCOL auditorium on 16th November at 5.30 PM “positively” to “receive The Janata Personal Accident Insurance for three years from the chief guest”.

The ruling party’s super-supremo Pyari Mohan Mohapatra was projected as the chief guest in the invitation card.

It was covered by a letter signed by three of Orissa’s known journalists under the letter head of an organization with a registered number, styled as National Journalist Welfare Board.

To my horror I found in the invitation card a list of 13 persons including four Ministers, two MPs and one MLA belonging to the ruling party and the rest comprising three officers of the National Government, one of an insurance company and two henchmen were to address the audience as Chief Guest, Chief Speaker, Guests of Honour, and Speakers. But surprisingly there was none from the Press to speak on this occasion. I decided to ignore the invitation.
Press Repressed
Press is being repressed as never before in Orissa. Rural reporters not showing inclination not to report starvation deaths, not to report baby-selling by helpless mothers, not to report stone eating by hungry landless tribes, not to report wretchedness of the displaced, not to report swindling away of welfare funds by the nexuses of officials and contractors, not to report hijacking of essential commodities from public distribution system into the black-market by traders, not to report clandestine trade of narcotics by police personnel of their localities, are being framed up in cooked up cases under severe charges such as sedition, a recent instance of which is the case clamped on Sambad reporter Laxman Choudhury and / or being brutally beaten up by ruling party goons, as has recently happened to Samaj reporter Jagannth Basita.
Official apathy
More tormenting than this is the cold apathy the State Government has deliberately shown in responding to appeals from the fourth estate to save Freedom of Press from such ongoing brutalization.
It is shocking therefore that a few of the community of journalists in Orissa have tried to play tricks on the fraternity by clever offer of “accident insurance” through a pack of Orissa Ministers on the National Press Day, designed to divert attention form the plight of journalists in the hands of administration to their imagined disadvantage due to absence of insurance coverage.
These fellows have floated an organization styled as “National Journalists Welfare Board”, which has no national authenticity,entity or accountability.

Its name is willfully contrived to show it as an authentic national organization. And, it is shown to be “in association with” the National Government’s media organizations like Press Information Bureau, Directorate of field Publicity, All India Radio and Doordarshan.

Has the National Government floated it? No.

Has the National Government adopted it? No.

Has the National Government accorded it any affiliation? No.

But local officials of the above noted wings of the National Government have, behind back of the National Government, allowed it to be seen as authentic by allowing the public to note that they are “in association with” this body.
This dubious set-up, has, on the National Press Day, tried to corrupt the scribes’ community by entrapping them into the official design of “accident insurance”, with the idea that their real disadvantage lies not in prosecution by administration, but in loss of life or limbs in organized attacks or in action that could be termed as accidents normal in the profession!
But it is heartening to note that majority of journalists have refused the offer, even though they were present in the auditorium to watch the event. Only 13 out of a hundred of State level accredited journalists offered the insurance accepted the policies when 87 of them refused to come to the podium.

Is RTI Affecting Press Freedom? Loud Thinks SCP on National Press Day

By OrissaMatters Bureau

National Press Day was officially observed in the auditorium of the Department of Information and Public Relations in the evening of November 16, with Minister of I&PR, Mr. Prafulla Samal in the chair.

Dr. Surya Narayan Mishra, Professor of Political Science, Utkal University, expressed deep dismay over failure of democracy to stay as the stable source of development of peoples and decline of space in mainstream media for the commons in various countries including India.

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak and Ramesh Chandra Mohanty from the Fourth Estate expressed concern over attack on Press under applied democracy as is seen in Orissa in recent days with the Chief Minister dillydallying in taking action against police functionaries that have unambiguously cooked up false cases against reporters even as Sri Pattanayak gave a loud thinking to how shrewdly democracy is replaced with plutocracy by agents thereof in partnership with the owners of media, who attired as editors or assisted by yes-men donned as editors, take advantage of freedom of press and vet and steer information delivery process cleverly against the progressive forces, lest the hidden face of plutocracy comes out to public gaze. The situation in India is so anarchical that in the guise of freedom of information a law like the Right to Information Act has been promulgated that appears pro-people outwardly but inwardly is an instrument to do away with the conscience-keeper role of the working journalists to whom, by way of accreditation, democracy had originally equipped with the discretion to use professional wisdom in choosing what should be reportable in interest of the public. With the RTI, relevance of Press Accreditation is impaired and administration is being dragged into marketplace, which certainly is designed to develop informational anarchy. To sabotage democracy in the guise of democracy is the game that plutocracy plays and RTI as is being officially patronized needs to be reviewed in this light, said Pattanayak.

Dwelling on the precarious condition of journalists in Orissa, Pattanayak pointed out that the incumbent Information Minister, knows that his attempts to bring out a list of journalists working in Orissa is not being possible due to non-supply of acquaintance role by media organizations. But under the Press Council Act, it is the Information Department, which should have been in possession of details of the State’s journalist from the data of income and expenditure of every media house if the annual levy for the Council could have collected by the Government. It is not being done as the Government is not with the people, but with the traders that own the media organizations, he pointed out.

Prof. Biswaranjan, who after retiring from teaching Political Science in Orissa’s top ranking Government Colleges, has been working as the Editor of the daily Khabar since its inception, as the chief speaker of the evening, dwelt on the new face of media, which, to him, has evolved at par with applied democracy. Agreeing with SCP about overcast of plutocracy on political horizon of India, he went further to rue that the media having deviated from its avowed stand to stay as the sentinel of democracy, as a corollary thereto democratic process in the country has been hit hard by mobocracy. To save India from the disaster of electoral wisdom being swayed away by mobocracy, Press shall have to retrieve its role of politico-economic educator of the masses, he said. Earlier a small newspaper owner sans any invitation to speak had taken the microphone to assure the Minister in the Chair that the Press would stand with the Government. The idea was so ridiculous of the occasion that Prof. Biswaranjan, even though the paper he heads as editor is viewed as the mouthpiece of the Government because of super-chief-minister Pyarimohan Mohapatra’s shadow ownership, dismissed the idea and said, if Press would be pledged to Government there would be no Press at all.

Mr. Samal in his Presidential address assured to ensure that Press freedom is not tampered with through any official intervention. Identification of journalists active in Orissa, irrespective of where they work and with who, would soon be published in the official website and all the accredited journalists would be officially covered under insurance with provision of pension to all of them on crossing 60 in age, he declared. Departmental secretary R.N.Dash reiterated official commitment to Freedom of Press.