New Delhi: Press Council chairman Markandey Katju has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting that the electronic media should be brought under its purview and should be given "more teeth".
"I have written to the PM that the electronic media should be brought under Press Council and it should be called Media Council and we should be given more teeth. Those teeth would be used in extreme situations," Katju told a news channel.
Katju said that he had received a letter from the Prime Minister that his letter had been received and "they are considering it".
The former Supreme Court judge said he had also met Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and that she had told him probably there will be a "consensus".
"I want powers to stop government advertisement, I want to suspend license of that media for a certain period if it behaves in a very obnoxious manner, impose fines," Katju said while maintaining that all these measures would be used only in extreme situations.
On if these measures would not threaten the freedom of the media, he said, "Everybody is accountable in a democracy. No freedom is absolute. Every freedom is subject to
reasonable restrictions. I am accountable, you are accountable, we are accountable to the people."
Katju said that he thought TV debates were "frivolous", and there is no discipline among panelists. "It is not a shouting contest," he said.
He also spoke about how he thought things could be changed. "There must be some fear in the media," he said, quoting Tulsidas` Ramcharitmanas that `bin bhay hot na
Katju said, "I have a poor opinion of the media" and added that "they should be working for the interest of the people. They are not working for the interest of the people and sometime they are positively working in an anti-people manner."
He said, "Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. It often diverts the attention of the people from the real problems which are basically economic.”
"80 percent people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, health care (problems)," Katju said.
"You (media) divert the attention from those problems and instead you project film stars and fashion parades as if they are the problems of the people," he said.
"Cricket is an opium of the masses. Roman emperors used to say if you cannot give the people bread give them circuses. In India send them to cricket if you cannot give the people bread," Katju said.
The Council chairman said, "Whenever bomb blasts take place, in Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, within a few hours almost every channel starts showing an e-mail has come or an SMS has come that Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility or Jaish-e Mohammed or Harkat-ul-Ansar or some Muslim name," he said.
"You see e-mail or SMS...any mischievous person can send but by showing it on TV channels you are in a subtle way conveying the message that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb throwers and you are demonising the Muslims...99 percent of people of all communities are good people," Katju said.
"I think it is a deliberate action of the media to divide the people on religious lines and that is totally against the national interest," he said.