Delivering a keynote address at the Red Ink Awards 2021, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said that mixing personal views with the news can be a dangerous cocktail. Nothing can be more lethal to democracy than the deadly combination of confrontational polity and competitive journalism, CJI said.
CJI also asked the media to have trust in the judiciary and also said that the trend to sermonize about judgments and villainize judges should also be checked.
He also said that a key stakeholder in democracy, the media has the duty to defend and protect the judiciary from “motivated attacks by evil forces”.
“We are together in … mission democracy and in promoting national interest. We have to sail together,” he said.
“Journalists Are Like Judges, You Must Do Your Duty Regardless Of Your Ideology”
CJI Ramana also pointed out the way some journalists are mixing their own opinions with the news. “Another trend that I witness in reporting nowadays, is the seeping of ideological stances and biases into the news story. Interpretation and opinions are colouring what should be factual reports. News mixed with views is a dangerous cocktail,” he said.
“Journalists are like judges in one sense. Regardless of the ideology you profess and the beliefs you hold dear, you must do your duty without being influenced by them. You must report only the facts, with a view to give a complete and accurate picture,” said CJI Ramana.
He added, “An issue that has gained prominence recently is linked to what is called the attention economy. In the hope of grabbing eyeballs, the headlines that are given for news reports are catchy, but misleading. It is said that the legal profession is a noble profession. But I can state that the journalist profession is noble.”
He also asked the journalists to avoid seeping ideological biases into news stories. CJI Ramana stated “cherry picking of facts” to give news stories a “certain colour.”
“Nothing could be more lethal to democracy than the “deadly combination” of confrontational polity and competitive journalism. Allowing yourself to be co-opted by an ideology or the state is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
He added, “Nowadays, everything is subject to reporting. Every moment is available to the scrutiny of millions as things get reported 24×7. This places an enormous pressure not only on the person or professional being reported about, but also on the journalist doing the reporting. In the race for ratings, the important journalistic tenet of verification before publishing is not being followed.”
“Unlike print and electronic media, unfortunately, it is almost impossible to hold social media platforms such as YouTube accountable even after they host most derogatory and defamatory stuff which has potential to ruin careers and lives,” CJI said.
Journalist Wages Not Encouraging
“For an efficient democracy there has to be a fearless press. It is said that legal profession is a noble profession. But I can state that a journalist profession is as noble. As someone who started his professional career as a journalist, I can understand your difficulties and struggles. Speaking truth to power and holding up a mirror to society, is an immense responsibility that is extremely difficult to fulfill,” CJI said.
He went on to add, “You are on your feet for long hours and constantly on call and working. Holidays are few and far between and finding time to spend with family is difficult. The stress on your family is also immense. The wages too are not very encouraging.”