"I am feeling very happy to join you all the respected personalities at the 35th annual function of the Prabhat Khabar, the prestigious newspaper of Jharkhand.
Starting with just 500 circulations in the 80s, today you have reached more than 8 lakh circulations. You have about 15 million readers. 10 of your editions are published in Bihar, Bengal and Jharkhand. This achievement reflects your loyalty towards fearless journalism and public confidence in it. Your achievement is not only laudable, but also augurs well for Indian journalism.
In the last 35 years, your journey has been a journey from a newspaper to a movement and movements are made only when they receive public support and public confidence. You have earned public confidence in the last three decades. This is the result of your fearless and impartial journalism.
I have a special connection with Prabhat Khabar. My colleague Mr. Harivansh, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha had been closely associated with this newspaper for many years. I have also, from time to time, communicated to readers through my articles in this newspaper on current topics and the work of the great personalities of the country. I am very happy to know that now this movement has moved beyond the newspaper to radio and online media.
Friends, media is not only a part of healthy democracy but also is an indispensable prerequisite of it. Media has been considered as the fourth pillar of the democratic system. Gandhiji had said that today people believe press more than the holy texts. This may seem an exaggeration, but it also has the truth of the present society. Although freedom of the press has not been openly recognized as a fundamental right in our Constitution - It is found from the Constituent Assembly's debate that there was consensus about considering media freedom as an extension of fundamental freedom of expression. After that several decisions of the Supreme Court gave legitimacy to this recognition. Mahatma Gandhi said that freedom of the press is priceless - which no country would want to lose.
After the bitter experience of the Emergency, there has been a consensus in our Parliament towards media freedom. While there is a provision in the constitution for the remaining three pillars, the media enjoys public confidence. You will be aware that in the freedom movement, the newspapers of that time, especially Indian linguistic papers, played an important role. The intellectual class of the country was supporting the freedom movement through these newspapers. Our leaders published their letters and gathered public support.
Friends, the importance of print media continues in this era of electronic and digital media. The beauty of words, the spread of ideas, the seriousness of journalism, the dignity of expression - are seen only in the pages of the newspaper. In this era of technology, new media will come, but the dignity of the written words will always remain intact. Man has learned to script his ideas after continuous efforts for centuries. Therefore, the reliability of the written words, their seriousness is accepted by all even today.
The introduction of online editions of newspapers not only increased the popularity of newspapers, but now any edition of newspapers and even old newspapers can be read anywhere, anytime, on your smartphone. Technology has actually increased the popularity of newspapers.
If media is the fourth pillar of democracy then its role in the democratic system becomes even more important. Media credibility rests on public concerns and public confidence. Media is a national resource that the journalists use in public trust. Therefore, it is inevitable that the media remains honest about public interests. Mahatma Gandhi had said that it is the duty of a journalist to realize the public opinion of the country and give it a vocal expression boldly. He said that the objective of journalism should only be the social service. These words of Mahatma Gandhi are a key for the journalism even today.
Parliament and the media are supportive of each other. Both institutes give expression to public sentiments. Today, when we are living in an era of increasing and changing public expectations, it is necessary that we should get rid of our established prejudices and give voice to public expectations. Media also has to be the carrier of evolutionary positive politics. The media must decide the accountability of governments and political parties but it should have public concerns at its centre and not the institutions of power. Media became a factor of change in status quo politics. The media should raise people-centric issues by rising above party politics.
In the recent elections, during the campaigning some new regrettable trends have been witnessed in the media. The media should collectively show concern on all matters like uncontrolled use of paid news, fake news, uncontrolled use of social media and suggest practical solutions.
Election is the sacred celebration of democracy in which all voters participate. Maintaining the purity of this process is necessary for our healthy democracy by avoiding rumours, vilifications.
Elections should be contested on the agenda of future development. Elections should be based on the conduct, ideology, ability and loyalty of the candidate and not on the basis of caste, religion, muscle-power, money-power or criminal background.
The election is an expression of the expectations of our citizens, especially the youth. I would urge the media to rise above the narrow boundaries of caste and religion and give voice to the expectations of youth, women, farmers and entrepreneurs.
After some time there will be elections again in the state - once again the media will get an opportunity to put public concerns, public participation at the centre of the elections. It has often been observed that during elections, polling and caste analysis of voters are done in the media. This further deepens the caste and communal divisions in the society, which thwart the very purpose of healthy politics. I would urge that we develop new values of democracy in the country.
If the democratic values are to be strengthened in the media, public concerns will have to be placed at the centre of journalism. Local newspapers play an important role here. Not only do you reflect local expectations, but being published in Indian languages, you are much closer to public expectations. You provide local experts and scholars an opportunity to express their views in the media.
My request would be that the focus of the press should also be on public cooperation and public concerns in addition to power institutions. After all, why should the water conservation efforts by the residents of two villages - Ara and Keram, located in the foothills of the mountain in Jharkhand - not be extended to other parts of the country. Our forest dwellers should be aware of welfare schemes like support price of forest products announced by the government, the country should be made aware of the success of mass campaign in Jharkhand for making it free of open defecation. Journalism to educate people on these subjects of public concern is the need of hour.
The role of media in making the Swachhta Abhiyan a mass movement has been laudable. Apprise the country about the positive efforts and changes being made by the citizens in the local community at larger scale. At the community level, give positive efforts like water conservation, environmental protection, innovation, a place in journalism. Your efforts will increase public confidence, community consciousness will increase.
Your journey for the last 35 years has been a glorious one. I am confident that even in the era of communication revolution in the future, Prabhat Khabar will continue to make positive interventions in the society. I wish you all the best.