Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Anurag Thakur on Saturday urged the media fraternity in the country to remain cautious and desist from giving its space to narratives that threaten the nation’s integrity.
Unsubstantiated and illogical opinions, delivered freely from within or abroad, could not destroy the democratic nature of the country, he added.
His remarks came against the backdrop of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement in London that democracy in the country was under “brutal attack”, besides the controversial documentary on Gujarat riots by BBC.
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“I urge the media fraternity to remain cautious and desist from giving its space intentionally or unintentionally to such voices and narratives that have the potential to threaten the integrity of India,” he said.
Thakur was speaking while participating as a special guest at the valedictory ceremony of the centenary celebrations of eminent Malayalam daily “Mathrubhumi”.
He said there is a proverb that states facts are sacred and opinion is free.
“I want to emphasise here that the democratic nature of our great nation will always remain a fact, no matter how many unsubstantiated and illogical opinions are delivered freely from within or abroad,” Thakur said, and called upon organisations like Mathrubhumi to develop an effective mechanism to counter these kinds of fake narratives and anti-India bias.
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Noting that the advent of newer technologies presents a unique opportunity to break barriers, the Minister said, “however there lurks a growing danger of digital colonialism on platforms run by algorithms coded offshore behind the walls of transparency.”
“We must remain cautious not to accept anything and everything in the name of innovation and modernity. Foreign publications, companies and organisations with inherent anti-India bias peddling distorted facts must be identified and called out. Here the Indian media which understands the ground reality will have to play a crucial role”, Thakur said.
I&B minister Thakur said these days the word democracy is heard often in public discourse; a noble principle of governance has been reduced to a fashion statement by those who have constantly tried to weaken democracy and its institutions in our country. Violators are now pretending to be victims, he said in an apparent dig the Congress.
“We must remember that unlike Western countries, democracy is not an artificial implant on India it is an integral and indestructible part of our civilisational history. The sabhas and samitis that existed in other parts of Bharat Varsha, also existed in what is now known as Kerala. Democracy existed then, it exists now, and it shall exist in the future too”.
Veiled jab at Rahul
“But what is amazing is how the bhakshak, dressed in white tee-shirt, is trying to project itself as the rakshak of democracy,” he said, in an apparent reference to Rahul Gandhi.
Thakur also criticised the Congress for dismissing the Left government of Kerala in 1959.
“Unable to tolerate the fact that the people of Kerala had not voted the ruling party to power, the Government of the time invoked Article 356 of the newly-minted Constitution of India to sack the Left Government. The Congress got away with impunity. It was the first gross misuse of the Constitution”, the minister said.
The I&B minister also alleged that subsequently, the Congress government abused Article 356 to sack 93 State governments, striking blow after severe blow to democracy in India, pulping political diversity and making political differences a punishable offence.
Noting that the print medium, especially the newspapers hold a significant position in upholding the credibility of news, he said from colonial times it enjoyed the power of shaping the public opinion and still does so.
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From Kerala to Kashmir, among the many threads that unite the diverse people of this great nation, possibly the strongest is their belief that India is their motherland their karmabhumi and punyabhumi, the I&B minister said.
“The newspaper (Mathrubhumi) Kesava Menon founded is a tribute to this unshakeable belief. Unfortunately, and I mean it literally, there are some who do not believe so. For them, India is not their motherland. They have a fatherland which is a foreign country from where they derive their foreign ideology,” he said.
“Then there are those who misquote the Constitution and have no knowledge of the Constituent Assembly debates, to describe our nation as a mere Union of States. This shapes their narrow, spiteful politics, which, in many ways, is alien to the core identity of India”, he said.
Referring to the recent incidents of attacks on offices and studios of news organisations, “simply because they do not toe the line” and sacking of journalists “for defying the certain version of news”, the minister said such outrageous assaults weaken democracy and its institutions.
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The I&B minister also referred to alleged political attacks on RSS workers in Kerala.
“It is as outrageous and unacceptable,5 the ceaseless attacks on those who hold a different political view and have strong feelings for their Motherland in Kerala. The brutal attempt to silence them has failed. I pay my humble tribute to those men and women who stood up for their Dharma and whose only fault was that they were associated with the RSS. The attacks on them weaken democracy; their courage, forbearance and steadfastness strengthens democracy”, Thakur said.
In his speech, Thakur also recalled the contribution of late M P Veerendra Kumar, who oversaw the rapid growth of Mathrubhumi.
The programme, inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was also attended by a host of dignitaries including the state Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan, Law Minister P Rajeeve and Revenue Minister P Rajan.
Mathrubhumi Managing Director M V Shreyamskumar presided over the function.