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Bengaluru, February 22, 2020
Saying that the project of democracy was incomplete without informed citizens, President Ram Nath Kovind today called upon the media to pursue the truth with unbiased journalism.
Addressing the fourth edition of "The Huddle" – the annual thought conclave of The Hindu, the President said Mahatma Gandhi was a journalist who edited a range of journals, in several languages, in South Africa as well as in India.
“His was journalism with a cause. Yet, he was deeply aware of the cause of journalism itself too, which is simply truth itself. That is why he cautioned against the superficiality, the one-sidedness, the inaccuracy and often even dishonesty that had crept into journalism,” he pointed out.
“Today, however, we seem to be living in what has come to be called the post-truth era. I wonder what Gandhiji would have said about it. Of late, there have been attempts to give various shades to truth and define its stages as if some final truth exists beyond provisional truths.
“To my mind, such attempts are nothing more than indulgence in semantics. Truth exists in an absolute form which cannot be eclipsed by blinkers of prejudices. It cannot be a case of ‘your truth’ versus ‘my truth’. Truth has to be one,” he added.
The internet and social media have democratized journalism and revitalized democracy. This process is ongoing, but in its current stage, it has also led to many anxieties. The new media is fast and popular and people can choose what they want to watch, hear or read. But only the traditional media has, over years, developed skills to authenticate a news report, and that is a costly operation, Kovind said.
“I hope that we will arrive at the ideal trade-off soon. In the meanwhile, the traditional media will have to introspect on its role in society and find ways to earn the reader’s full trust again. The project of democracy is incomplete without informed citizens – which means, without unbiased journalism,” he added.
The President said debate and discussion were internalised in India’s social psyche to arrive at truth since time immemorial. “There is no doubt that the perception of truth is conditioned by circumstances. The conditions that cloud the truth’s positions are effectively dispelled by contestation of ideas through debate, discussion and scientific temper. Prejudices and violence vitiate the search for truth.”
He complimented The Hindu group of publications for relentlessly aiming to capture the essence of this great country through its responsible and ethical journalism. He commended them for their insistence on sticking to the five basic principles of journalism – truth-telling, freedom and independence, justice, humaneness and contributing to the social good.