At Dina Thanthi event in Chennai, Narendra Modi tells media 'freedom to write' isn't 'freedom to be incorrect'

Drawing attention to "factually incorrect" news, the media's role in governance, and the importance of vernacular media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a gathering celebrating the 75th anniversary of Tamil daily Dina Thanthi in Chennai on Monday.

Modi reached the city at around 10 am, and met Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswamy. Discussing the flood situation in Chennai and neighbouring districts, Modi assured the Tamil Nadu government of "all assistance" from the Centre. Deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam was part of the discussion as well, ANI reported.

Modi then proceeded to Madras University Centenary Hall, where he addressed a crowd that had gathered to celebrate the daily's 75th anniversary. Veteran actor Rajinikanth was also part of the gathering.

Modi's Chennai visit comes amid a buzz in the state's political circles regarding Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan taking the political plunge. In fact, it comes just a day before Haasan is all set to launch the party's mobile application on 7 November.

Modi said, "Today, newspapers do not just give news. They can also mould our thinking and open a window to the world. In a broader context, media is a means of transforming society. That is why we refer to the media as the fourth pillar of democracy."

Stressing on the importance of vernacular media in India, the prime minister said, "The then British government was fearful of the Indian vernacular press. It was in order to muzzle vernacular newspapers that the Vernacular Press Act was enacted in 1878. The role of newspapers published in regional languages remains as important today as it was then."

Amid several Opposition leaders claiming that the BJP government has been clamping down on media and free speech, Modi also mentioned the importance of "editorial freedom". "Editorial freedom must be used wisely in public interest. The freedom to write, does not include the freedom to be 'factually incorrect'. Mahatma Gandhi said, 'The press is called the Fourth Estate. It is definitely a power, but, to misuse that power is criminal,'" Modi added.

"Even though media is owned by private individuals, it serves a public purpose. As scholars say, it is an instrument to produce reform through peace, rather than by force. Hence, it has as much social accountability as the elected government or the judiciary," Modi added.

Pointing out the natural calamities occurring around the world at regular intervals, Modi urged newspapers to allocate space to increase awareness about climate change. He said the freedom to write does not in anyway reduce the importance to be accurate and correct, adding that though media outlets may be owned by the private sector, they serve a public purpose, have much social accountability and their conduct should be above board.

He said technological advancement enables citizens to compare, discuss and analyse the credibility of news and the media should take extra caution to maintain its credibility. According to the prime minister, reform in media can come from within and through introspection.

Observing most of the media discourse revolves around politics, Modi said the nation is made of over a billion people and the media should focus on the people and their achievements. Citing the spread of mobile phones, Modi said citizen reporting is important in showcasing individual achievements and also helping in the aftermath of natural disasters. Modi also released a souvenir.

Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, Chief Minister E Palaniswamy and his deputy O Pannerselvam also participated in the function.

Paying encomiums to the founder of Daily Thanthi SP Adithanar and his son Sivanthi Adithan, Palaniswamy said the daily would certainly see centenary celebrations. Leaders of several political parties, law makers, industrialists, movie actors and diplomats attended the function.

From the Chennai airport, Modi reached the INS Adyar naval base here in a helicopter. At INS Adyar, Modi had a meeting with Palaniswami and discussed about the rain and relief situation in Chennai and neighbouring districts.

Concluding the talk, Modi urged the national and vernacular media to stress on climate change and increase awareness around the subject. "Natural calamities seem to be occurring with increasing frequency across the world. Can media take a lead in the battle against climate change? Can media devote just a little space to report or increase awareness about what we can do to combat climate change?" he asked.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Nov 06, 2017 12:37:17 IST

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