The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee said that prestigious awards were public recognition of talent, merit and hardwork by peers and leaders in the profession. Such awards should be cherished and valued by those who receive them. As proud Indians, we must have confidence in the idea of India and the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution. Open-mindedness and appreciation of genuine criticism was the tradition of our nation that should be preserved and strengthened. Disagreement should be expressed through debate and discussion. Shri Mukherjee said this while inaugurating the National Press Day celebrations organized by the Press Council of India today in New Delhi. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting and Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, PCI chairman were also present on the occasion. Shri Mukherjee also gave away National Awards for excellence in journalism on the occasion.
Invoking examples from history, Shri Mukherjee said that the growth of newspapers and agencies in our country had its roots in our freedom struggle. The press in India had evolved, not through the aegis of the Government but due to the commitment of individuals who used it as a tool to fight the exploitative and oppressive policies of the colonial Government. Newspapers became the platforms for social reform movements across the country. Shri Mukherjee further said that today, the influence, credibility and quality of our media was well recognized all over the world. The Indian media had grown in scale, reach and revenues over the years. Its significance had further increased with higher literacy levels and the revolution in communication technologies. It had become a powerful means for shaping the ideas, aspirations and behaviour of our people, even in the remotest corners of our country.
Highlighting the importance the Press Council of India, Shri Mukherjee said that it had the dual mandate of protecting the freedom of the press and ensuring that the Press exercises its freedom within the ambit of the ethics of journalism and the legal framework of our country. He said that media must act as a watchdog of public interest and give voice to the marginalized. Journalists must bring to public notice the array of ills and deprivations that continue to beset large number of our people. The power of the media should be used to reset our moral compass and promote liberalism, humanism and decency in public life. He said that media should exercise caution in passing judgements, especially on matters where the due process of law is yet to be completed. He said the media fraternity is not only provider of news, but also educators who empower our citizens and strengthen the democratic framework of our country.
Referring to the main theme of this year’s National Press Day discussion, the President said cartoons and caricatures were good stress busters. The cartoonist captures the mood of the time and is able to portray what lengthy articles fail to express.
Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore while speaking on the occasion said that press acted as a tool for ensuring transparency in governance. Due to technological developments, it was possible to get immediate and detailed feedback from public on government policies. Elaborating further Col Rathore said that contrary to the trends worldwide the growth of print media in India was on the rise. He said that it was responsibility of the media to provide fair and balanced information and Government was also committed to ensure freedom of speech.
To encourage the media to pursue its duties effectively without fear or favour following the dictum of ‘freedom with responsibility’, the Press Council of India, as the only statutory authority enjoying such mandate, has instituted National Awards to honour journalists excelling in print journalism in various fields. This includes ‘Raja Ram Mohan Roy National Award for Excellence in Journalism’ in honour of one of the greatest reformer journalists of the country. Other awards were conferred in the fields of rural / developmental Reporting, investigative Journalism, photo-journalism as well as best newspapers art.
The President conferred award to Mr. Sujit Chakkraborty, Indo Asian News Service and Mr.Vinoy Mathew, Mathrubhumi who were jointly selected in the category of Rural Journalism and Developmental Reporting. Mr. Sharad Vyas, Mid Day bagged the honour in Investigative Journalism category. Mr.Shahbaz Khan of PTI was selected for Award for Photo Journalism in Single News Picture category, while Award in Photo Feature category was given to Mr.Tashi Tobgyal of Indian Express. Mr. C.R.Sasikumar, the Indian Express was selected for award in the category of Best Newspapers Art covering cartoons, caricatures and illustrations.
National Press Day – The 16th of November is symbolic of a free and responsible press in India. On this day the Press Council of India started functioning as a moral watchdog to ensure that not only did the press maintain the high standards expected from this powerful medium but also that it was not fettered by the influence or threats of any extraneous factors. To encourage debate and deliberations on the impact that cartoons and caricatures could have in the present day context, and the importance of recognizing them as important instrument of freedom of expression, the Council has dedicated the Press Day Deliberations 2015 to the memory of S/Shri R.K.Laxman, best known for his creation of the Common Man, made the column “You said it” a much awaited morning dose of humor for the readers who found an immediate connect with the issues raised by him. Shri Rajinder Puri, was a political activist whose acumen and perceptions very clearly reflected in his illustrations and the extraordinary critique.