Shri Justice Cyriac Joseph, Judge, Lokayukta,
Shri M. Vijayakumar, Chairman, Kerala Tourism Development
Corporation and former Speaker,
Shri George Kallivayalil, President, Global Malayalee Press Club,
Shri George Kakkanatt, General Secretary, Global Malayalee Press
Smt. Alakananda, News Reader, Asianet News,
Good Evening to everyone.
It gives me immense joy to address you after inaugurating the Global Malayalee Press Club (GMPC), an international network of Malayalee journalists and media community.
On this occasion, let me begin by congratulating the office bearers of Global Malayalee Press Club, Shri George Kallivayalil, Dr George Kakkanatt, Shri John Mundakkayam, Shri Anil Adoor, Ms. Nisha Purushothaman and others.
I am aware that many other members could not attend this ceremony due to Covid restrictions; yet I would like to compliment all the journalists who have enthusiastically worked to form this Global Malayalee Press Club, including those who work abroad.
I am happy to note that this Club, has been registered as a non-profit charitable trust, with head office in Kochi, will endeavour to build cooperation among the Keralite media persons and media organizations across the world.
It is good that Global Malayalee Press Club has been formed as an independent media fraternity, no strings attached to any non-media organization. This will ensure that the Club will function independently and objectively without any fear or favour. After all, ‘objective’ and ‘independent’ are two words that often go with the mere mention of journalism.
True, they are words, but society expects the media men to live up to their meaning. We all strongly expect journalists to be independent voices, who will not act, formally or informally, on behalf of any special political or corporate.
Interestingly, many people consider the journalist’s role as being similar to what Sanjaya performed in Mahabharata.
Sanjaya, who was gifted with the vision to see distant events, gave a live commentary of the Mahabharat battle to Dhritarashtra. At times, he would comment on the follies of Duryodhan and would console him when some Kaurava was killed. He also acted as an envoy between enemy groups and by virtue of his role, was privy to Lord Krishna’s narration of Bhagavat Gita.
The name Sanjaya, combines ‘sam’ and ‘jaya’ to refer to a mind which has outgrown the feelings of attachment, ill will, bias or prejudice. In fact there is a view that Sanjay is not the name of an individual in Mahabharata but it denotes the qualities of impartiality and fairness which entitle a person to report some important event to others. Yet Sanjay is reporter and no God.
However, Mahabharata also gives a touch of the all-time reality of self interest.
It says:
लॊकॊ रक्षति चात्मानं पश्य स्वार्थस्य सारताम
[loko rakṣati cātmānaṃ paśya svārthasya sāratām]
“Everyone wishes to protect oneself: see, Self interest is the essence of the world”.
And, elsewhere, Bhishma tells Yudhishtir, who seeks his consent and blessings to fight against him, a fatherly figure:
अर्थस्य पुरुषो दासः स च जातु न कस्यचित्।
[Arthasya puruṣo dāsaḥ sa ca jātu na kasyacit]
It means, “Man is the slave of self interest, Self Interest is no one’s slave”
And, Bhishma goes on to admit that he was tied to Kauravas with the bond of self interest and so he felt like an impotent man. So honest an admission by Bhishma Pitamaha revealing what compelled him to fight on the side of the Kauravas.
Therefore, in this world of self interests and vested interests, I am aware that perfect objectivity is not always possible, but impartial reporting builds public trust and confidence among the readers and the society at large.
As we all know, Indian journalism, which evolved from the spirit of the independence, had been guided by a sense of social commitment. The media stood hand in hand with the freedom movement to mobilize and enlighten the masses, to instill a sense of patriotism and to promote the ideals of democracy, equality and fraternity.
The social outlook of our media emanated from the spirit of our Constitution, which guarantees the Freedom of the Press by implication, as part of the citizen’s right to freely express views. Our Fourth Pillar of Democracy does enjoy a remarkable level of freedom, since an independent Press is undoubtedly the life-line of a true democracy.
In today’s world of media convergence, the character of the Media industry has undergone changes. The Covid 19 pandemic has redefined the scope and functioning of media houses and brought in new business and functional models. We can expect further changes in the character of the media as well as the media users.
However, there are some ideals that cannot be ignored, like credibility, ethical practices and social responsibility.
I am sure that one of the missions of the Global Malayalee Press Club would be to promote eternal Indian values like Divinity of mankind (Aham Brahmasmi), Fearlessness (Abhay) and Respect and Acceptance of Diversity (Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti). I firmly believe that if we use our own Indian idiom and terminology, then it would become much easier for people to appreciate that all modern principles of ethics, secularism, independence, and equality are not some imported foreign ideas but they are integral part of Indian heritage since times when these modern terms were not even coined in the West.
Sadly, we get to see serious erosion of values and breach of ethics in the process of disseminating information. Some tend to put the blame on Post Truth, as if the phenomenon were somebody else’s problem.
It is good to rekindle our memory with what has been asserted by C.P. Scott, the celebrated Editor of Manchester Guardian: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. He said it in an article written to mark the centenary of that paper, in 1921.
One hundred years have passed and we still take comment for fact. As I have said on other occasions, comment also is justly subject to self-imposed restraint. It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair. This is an ideal, which no business model or pandemic can wipe out.
This ideal calls for making ethical practices a way of life, in one’s journalistic career. I sincerely hope that Global Malayalee Press Club would endeavour to show the right path to ethical journalism and objectivity.
It is heartening to note that Global Malayalee Press Club has set the challenging goal of providing an international forum for interaction and communication and to share knowledge, experience and expertise by organising international media conferences, workshops, journalism and communication programmes for members of the Club and aspiring students.
लोका: समस्ता: सुखिनो भवन्तु ।
Jai Hind