CELEBRATING THE FREEDOM

Today it is time to reiterate the commitment towards raising awareness about the Freedom of Press among the masses as May 3 is celebrated as the World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day as per the declaration by the United Nations General Assembly. Multiple programmes and functions mostly through virtual or digital mode due to the ongoing pandemic compulsions will be held today across the globe including the world’s largest democracy. Given the past experience, the day mostly passes off just with a few low affair meetings especially in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, despite the fact that this issue concerns the J&K UT the most in view of the misuse of freedom of speech and expression even to the extent of making seditious expressions, especially by the separatist camp and sometimes even by the mainstream politicians. Even the National scenario hasn’t remained untouched as is evident from the seditious sloganeering in various educational institutions under the umbrella of ‘Right to freedom of Speech and Expression’. The most important aspect of celebrating the World Press Freedom Day is to remind the governments of their duty to respect and uphold the Right to Freedom of Expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991. As such, it is expected that on this day the stakeholders discuss and deliberate on diverse issues related to media paradigms including the social media, which on one hand has become a strong platform of information dissemination today but at the same time it is accompanied with the inherent dangers of disseminating misinformation or even wrong information. As such it can be easily said that this freedom which is a great boon for the people can be the worst bane if misused. In such a situation, there is a dire need for quality journalism today as it enables citizens to make informed decisions about their respective society’s development. It also works to expose diverse vices like injustice, corruption and nepotism that have eaten up the vitals of our society. Therefore, today there is a need for strong and honest commitment to champion the cause of ‘Freedom of Right of Speech and Expression’ enshrined in the Indian Constitution while ensuring that none steps beyond the set contours under the law of the land. The objective behind the celebration of this day can be well achieved by bringing together media professionals and press freedom organisations, besides other stakeholders and assess the state of press freedom across the nation as well as in the states and discuss solutions for addressing the new challenges. Mega conferences need to be organized centring on the themes related to press freedom, including good governance, media coverage of terrorism, impunity and the role of media in post-conflict situations, etc. At the same time this is the day when journalists need to impress upon the government to provide them the necessary amenities and facilities that could go a long way in the healthy development and growth of ‘Freedom of Speech and Expression.’ Since journalism has been playing a vital role in making the society aware about the changing trends and patterns in the society by preparing it to rise to the occasion whenever necessary, the Central as well as the State governments should ensure at least the bare minimum facilities for this class including insurance cover for all journalists, at least for those working on ground zero. It is hoped that on this day the government will take notice of the various challenges faced by the journalists in this Union Territory and address them in the earnest as the Journalists of this UT are second to none, especially the younger generation journalists reflecting lot of creativity and positive dynamism necessary to change all the paradigms of journalism towards betterment in this part of the world. They are fully acquainted with their responsibility to maintain the highest media ethics while reporting and now it is for the policy makers to frame such policies that journalists get due incentives and respectable earnings for their hard work.