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Deskbound media needs to break bondage

Deskbound media needs to break bondage
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Deskbound media needs to break bondage

Highlights

This being the situation, what is surprising is that the national media did not feel it necessary to tear into the bill and its contents once it was passed by the Lok Sabha and present a wide range of opinions on its advantages and disadvantages but was more concerned about the so called "gag" of the media in one particular case in Andhra Pradesh.

This being the situation, what is surprising is that the national media did not feel it necessary to tear into the bill and its contents once it was passed by the Lok Sabha and present a wide range of opinions on its advantages and disadvantages but was more concerned about the so called "gag" of the media in one particular case in Andhra Pradesh. The AP government had on October 30 2019 issued a GO No. 2430 based on an earlier GO 938, dated February 20, 2007, according permission to the Special Commissioner, Information and Public Relations, and Departmental Secretaries to issue rejoinders, file complaints and lodge appropriate cases through public prosecutors against editors and publishers of newspapers and news channels, against defamatory news items. No national media spoke about it at that time. Was this not gagging media? No MP spoke about it though this order was uncalled for when there are penal sections to handle the misdoings of the media.

The national media suddenly woke up and made a hue and cry on the High Court's order directing the I&PR and DGP to ensure that the contents of FIR filed against the former Advocate General in the alleged insider trading case do not appear in print, electronic and social media. Almost half a day was allocated for debates and discussions on how the media was being gagged.

What needs to be observed here: Is media free? Is it calling a spade a spade? Is it showing its spine in exposing the omissions and commissions of the governments whether at the Centre or in the States? Has media not been gagged long ago by the parties in power which resort to arm-twisting methods by not giving advertisements if any media - print or electronic - criticises any action of the government forgetting the advertisements are being funded by public money and there are set of rules and guidelines for release of advertisements. There has been no discussion on this and no protest by the journalist unions on this.

Not just this issue, even when the NDA government has passed the Farm Bill and the Opposition parties as well as the Akali Dal which was an ally of the NDA till yesterday evening, are opposing it, there is hardly any discussion on its merits and de-merits. The Congress called the Modi government as "akin to corona pandemic as it is attacking the lives and livelihoods of farmers and was bartering agriculture at the doorsteps of crony capitalists."

They said the draconian laws on agriculture will be a death knell for the future of farming in India. Congress spokesperson Surjewala claimed that 62 crore farmers and farm labourers have been agitating across India and over 250 farmer organisations were up in arms across the country. He alleged that the NDA government was drunk with power and determined to serve the crony capitalist friends. The government, he felt, was not concerned about the plight and agony of farmers and wants to muzzle their voice. This Bill is intended to take the country towards corporate farming, the Congress believes. According to them, the biggest flaw is that this will do away with the minimum support price and with mandis getting abolished, the farmer would be at the mercy of big companies. In other words, they say that from the mercy of small-time middlemen, the farmers will be at the mercy of big companies.

The Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said the legislation will adversely affect farmers and would have great impact on the agriculture sector in the country. He was of the opinion that this legislation will usher in a healthy competition and would create a friendly ecosystem for farmers and traders alike. The farmer will have the freedom to dictate his terms and conditions as far as the price is concerned since he would now the entire country would be his marketplace. This would reduce the trader exploitation. Some experts feel that this would transform the destiny of farmers towards prosperity and take India on the path to become global power in agriculture.

The Prime Minister too has a valid point here. He feels that this would first end the political game of making all and sundry promises to the farmers by political parties on the eve of elections, incorporate those unconditional promise showing heaven in the palm in their manifesto and once in power incorporate all kinds of conditions depriving the farmers of the promised benefits. This all parties have been doing all these years. We have seen how they had promised waiver of agricultural loans if voted to power and how they had diluted the scheme after coming to power. So is the case with many other such promises.

He emphasised on the fact that "fake news is being spread that wheat and rice etc will not be procured by government agencies from farmers. This is an absolute lie, completely wrong and an attempt to deceive farmers," he said forcefully. "I appeal to all farmers across the country to beware about all those who are raising a false alarm about farm issues. And so, I say this again - beware of all those who are trying to misguide you and instigate you. All they want to do is keep you in your misery and exploit the old system. These people, who have been in power for decades and have spoken so much about farmers and farm issues have done nothing."

The government is "committed to help farmers get right prices through Minimum Support Price," Modi said trying to counter the Opposition attack. He also said, "Farmers are watching that some people are hating the new opportunities they are getting. Farmers are watching who are standing with middlemen." The Opposition which is in a state of disarray sees this as an opportunity and the country is likely to witness some agitations particularly in the Hindi belt of Punjab and Haryana alleging that the farmers would be short-changed.

The BJP of course will have a tough time countering the criticism and handling the protests of farmers. In north, triggering agitation by farmers is easier despite corona pandemic since the Akali Dal government in Punjab which is the oldest ally of NDA is in power in Punjab. The impact of this would not be felt in the two Telugu states as the agricultural movements here are not as strong as in North.

This being the situation, what is surprising is that the national media did not feel it necessary to tear into the bill and its contents once it was passed by the Lok Sabha and present a wide range of opinions on its advantages and disadvantages but was more concerned about the so called "gag" of the media in one particular case in Andhra Pradesh. The AP government had on October 30 2019 issued a GO No. 2430 based on an earlier GO 938, dated February 20, 2007, according permission to the Special Commissioner, Information and Public Relations, and Departmental Secretaries to issue rejoinders, file complaints and lodge appropriate cases through public prosecutors against editors and publishers of newspapers and news channels, against defamatory news items. No national media spoke about it at that time. Was this not gagging media? No MP spoke about it though this order was uncalled for when there are penal sections to handle the misdoings of the media.

When the GO 938 was issued by the then Congress government in February 2007, the entire media both here and at national level was up in arms and late at night the government decided to put it in cold storage. Barring some protests by the journalist organisations and a few protests, there was no concerted effort to fight the GO. The big question is whether there is a need for media to let the governments gag them in one form or the other?

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