NEW DELHI: Calling upon the media to stay away from partisan agendas, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said the fourth estate of democracy must be a watchdog, gatekeeper and mediator between the powerful and the public. Mukherjee was speaking on the role of the media in Indian democracy while launching the masthead of The Morning Standard, Delhi’s newest daily newspaper by The New Indian Express group.
"Today we stand at the crossroads of history. There are forces that seek to destroy the very political and socio-economic fabric of our nation. To foil their plans, a strong media is an answer. By stridently sticking to the truth, the media can act as the upholder of fairness and integrity. The watchdog must be forever on the alert,” he said. Mukherjee also spoke about fake news and called it the greatest challenge before the media.
“All it takes is a morphed picture, a bogus tweet or a photo-shopped statement to create social, political and communal tensions. It is important for journalists to be aware of their power to influence the minds of citizens. Hence it has to be wielded with care, responsibility and courage,” he said.
He touched upon the danger of “paid news” and said that questions were being raised about the objectivity of some media outlets.
Asking media houses to look for sustainable economic models that will allow them to resist political, public or commercial pressures, Mukherjee said it would let them perform their role with honesty, and without prejudice. Manoj Sonthalia, Chairman of The New Indian Express group, said the group was starting a newspaper in Delhi to serve readers and no one else.
Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla welcomed Mukherjee and said there are few things the former President had not done for the country and its people. TNIE editor G S Vasu gave the vote of thanks.