Derek O’Brien speaks on the independence of media | Transcript

Har khabar ka 50% sach hota hai. Dikkat is baat ki hai kaunsa 50 koi nehi janta. 50% of all the news we see on TV or in the print is true but the problem is we do not know which 50%. Sir, we do not want to blame journalists, they are doing their job; we do not want to blame business houses. The problem actually lies with the system.

Mr Chairman was kind enough to allow this debate to happen today and I was wondering what the significance of the timing of the debate is. Interestingly, the same Chairman, the hon. Chairman of ours, allowed the same debate after 2009 election… in early 2010, he allowed a debate on the media. This is significant because there is a link between the independence of the media; all the problems arise after the elections.  The last time the hon. Chairman allowed a discussion, nothing happened. This time the Minister is here, my request is to make something happen after this discussion.

In this age of FDI, I have a new term Sir, which is called MDI. D is Direct, I is Interference… now ‘M’ you can interpret in many ways and use your imagination for the M.  I am a simple person; my interpretation of M is Media Direct Interference.

Sir, if you notice in today’s debate AIDMK, DMK both forfeited their time. When I asked them why, they said because we own a channel. I like that.  Even my friends from the Shiv Sena have their own newspaper; we also have our own newspaper once a week.  If you want to put your ideology out through your paper, no problem.

But the problem is of those who try to be neutral angels. They pretend to be neutral, Sir, and this is why keep using the word paid news. But you talk to all the journalists and none of them are paid very well so why do we call it paid news? Because we have come, after this election, Sir, to the era of ‘super paid news’ and the danger of super paid news is this can weaken the democracy. And why will it weaken the democracy? Because in elections we believe, real people will not come to Parliament on occasions. To praphrase the classic great definition of democracy by Abraham Lincoln we have reached a stage now where it is for the super paid news, by the super paid news, of the super paid news.

Sir, when we talk about media reforms – and I have got some specific suggestion for the Minister rather than media bashing – media reform can only take place if there is electoral reform.  And electoral reforms have to be linked to judicial reforms.  I am happy that the government is going to bring this reform on the judicial commission, which is a good start for judicial reform.  Electoral reform is the second line of Trinamool’s party Manifesto. We really believe – after the kind of billion dollars spent in this advertising campaign – parties should be given the money from the Election Commission. Government should give money to EC to distribute, Sir.

Sir there is a danger of media power houses. 16-20 people are controlling thousands of papers. Media barons – one or two of them – should decide if they want to join politics; they are welcome to join, get elected and come to the House. But don’t be a Chief Editor and pretend that you want to be advisor to the Chief Minister; that is a dangerous trend. Samne channel, peeche panel.

Sir, I quickly want to come to social media. Sir, I want to make four one line points on social media. Sir, on the social network each one of us here is a broadcaster, each one of us here is a publisher because we can go out now and say what we want to say through Facebook or through Twitter. Sir, 66A… it is time to set up some sort of expert committee. Sir, we are suggesting is self regulation. Unfortunately, today on social media everything we read becomes the truth. This is always not the case, Sir. There is a certain responsibility in social media. I think to be fair to our politicians there is a change in the way we looked at it at in the last three years.

My two quick recommendations… Sir, the Press Council of India today can only warn, admonish, censor the erring newspaper, there is no penalty for paid news. We need to find a definition for paid news; it is difficult. We need an independent regulatory mechanism, I am not suggesting any where you take away the independence.

Sir, there are three broad issues which I wanted to leave behind with the Minister: an expert committee for the social media which requires a thorough understanding of the media, two, how do we make the role of Press Council of India more responsible, and three it is no use bashing the journalists, it is no use bashing the media houses we ourselves must redefine and fix a system for a new tomorrow in the media.

Thank you, Sir.