Stick to fundamental principles of journalism: President

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 18, 2013 17:20 hrs

Kolkata, Jan 18 (IANS) Urging journalists to stick to fundamental principles of truth, credibility and factual presentation of news, President Pranab Mukherjee Friday exuded confidence that they would continue to contribute to enhance the knowledge of the masses.

Addressing mediapersons at the Press Club here on the completion of 90 years of Indian Journalists' Association (IJA), Mukherjee reminded members of the fourth estate that while "comments are free, facts are sacrosanct".

During his 14-minute speech, the president referred to the high standards of journalism espoused by Mrinal Kanti Basu, the first IJA president.

"I have no doubt that the high standards of Mrinal Kanti Basu as a journalist, an organiser and a person of independent thinking will continue to be the hallmark of journalism. He truly believed that comments are free, but facts are sacrosanct.

"And many have strictly adhered to these principles that yes, I am free to give my views, but I cannot change facts. Facts are to be reproduced as they are. Of course, interpretation is my right, and I will exercise this right as a journalist to the fullest extent."

Pointing out the "revolutionary changes" in information technology, the president said one had to keep in mind that "with the change of technology, with the change of system, with the spread of literacy, with the spread of hunger for knowledge, we shall have to cope and this is the demand of civilization."

"But at the same time, certain fundamentals are to be kept in mind, and that is truth, credibility, placing the facts, and making efforts to find out the truth," he said.

The president said writings of eminent journalists, and even many small stories published in corners of newspapers had helped him immensely in his political life.

Giving an example, he said during the second United Front government in West Bengal in 1969, he had quoted a figure on political casualties which was challenged.

"Seniors in my party were a little disturbed and worried. But I told them that my source was a newspaper. In those days, some newspapers used to give the number of political casualties daily. In my daily diary, I used to note the figure. I just combined the figures. I mentioned the source, and it helped convince others who had challenged the facts".

The president said many a brilliant analysis in periodicals and magazines, and well-documented write-ups often help politicians and government functionaries to formulate their speeches.

"For many of my parliamentary speeches, I got immense help from writings of journalists," he said.

"I will only expect that with this practice of not only sharing information with the readers, but also enhancing their knowledge, the journalist friends would continue to contribute."

Likening the relation between journalists and politicians with that of water and fish, he said: "As fish cannot live out of water, political activists cannot live if they do not have interactions with journalists".

Dwelling on the changing demands in journalism after the rapid growth of the electronic media, the president said people belonging to the older generation had problems giving cryptic bytes.

"Those accustomed to the habit of reading in details, who developed the habit of reading in detail, are not very accustomed to give what you describe as bytes. It is because that short, cryptic comment, it takes some time to acquire the mastery over the art of conceptualising your views and expressing it in the most the appropriate word and in the shortest possible manner."

Recalling the role played by journalists in the freedom struggle, he said: "In a way, our freedom struggle was almost on the lines of a total war, encompassing the entire spectrum of societal activity, and journalists were the vanguard."

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