Threat to freedom of expression a threat to media: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged the media to accept the challenges of threat to freedom of expression posed by certain quarters.

Guwahati: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged the media to accept the challenges of threat to freedom of expression posed by certain quarters.

"In a democracy, we realise the importance of freedom of expression only when it is denied to us just like the importance of breathing is realised when one cannot breathe for two seconds," Modi said.

Inaugurating the Platinum Jubilee celebration of North East's English daily, he said "it was Indira Gandhi who made us realise the value of freedom of thought, ideas and expression in a democracy by gagging the media during the Emergency."

"People refused to accept it and the country was united to assert its right for freedom of expression, though many editors and mediapersons were thrown into prison and faced innumerable challenges", Modi said.

"Whenever any person or organisation wants to assert their supremacy, their first attack is on the media and the most recent example is that of the ISIS who made journalists their victims by beheading them," he said.

It was not important for ISIS from which country the journalist belonged to, what language he spoke or what his colour was, but the fact that he was wielding the pen and fighting for the truth was enough to make him a victim, the Prime Minister said.

In the 21st century, "an attack on media is an attack on humanity and is a blot for the nation and the world alike", he said.

Modi said "the media faces immense challenge in a fast-moving society like ours. Earlier, we got news once in 24 hours but now we get at least 24 news in one minute and the challenge is to be trusted and remain credible".

Credibility is a major challenge for the media as, he said, "merely reading the news is not enough but one has to read between the lines to ascertain whether it is credible."

"Had we ever seen earlier any signboard at any shop saying 'pure ghee available here'? But now we see such things. Similarly, media, too, has taken to promotion in a big way with slogans like 'saccha (true) khabar and tej (fast) khabar which makes one wary about its veracity," Modi said.

The reader "also becomes doubtful that something is wrong when a news report is excessively quoted to a 'reliable source' as people expect the media to have the power to take responsibility for what they are reporting'', he said. 

"It is very easy to start a news organisation but to remain credible is a challenge," the Prime Minister said.

Journalists should be like honeybees -- producing honey and at the same time stinging to make a lasting impact and not like the fly which only spreads dirt, Modi said.

"I am not giving any advice or criticising anybody but the time has come for the media to accept the challenges posed as the world of communication is changing very fast and your aim should be not to slip in that journey," he said.

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