ADDRESS DURING THE PRESENTATION OF RAMNATH GOENKA AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM, NEW DELHI
16-07-2007 : New Delhi
Journalists: Partners in National Development Can it be made Possible?
Media for Billion people"
I am delighted to participate in the presentation of Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism. My congratulations to all the award winners and greetings to the participants assembled here. Ramnath Goenka is remembered for his journalistic professionalism and promoting freedom of media even during the difficult days of press censorship and attempts to curb its freedom. Shri Goenka was a multi-faceted personality, a freedom fighter, a doyen of Indian journalism and a relentless crusader of freedom of the press and democratic values. The publications brought out by him during the pre-independence period and thereafter, testify to his patriotic spirit and fearlessness. He launched the Indian Express in 1932, which soon became a multi-linguistic newspaper under his able guidance. The topic of my discussion today is "Journalists: Partners in National Development".
Remembering World war-II
When I am with you friends, I would like to share with you an experience, which I had, when I was a 13 year old boy in 1944. It was second World War time. My eldest brother was a sub-agent for some newspapers including Swadesha Mitran and Dinamani. When he went to Ceylon for work, I had to take up his work of selling these two papers in the whole of Rameswaram while I was a student. Since, it was war time, I was very much interested in every day news. As soon as I get the newspaper packet, I used to open the first copy of Dinamani and see how Spitfire fighter aircraft was performing against Luftwaffe. I can say that my interest in aeronautics got seeded through the news in Dinamani. There may be many inspiring events taking place everyday through out the world. Journalists can lock on and present such events as important news.
An example, media may like to discuss
In 1999, I was in Tel-aviv. When I reached Tel-Aviv, there was big TV news that Hamas group had inflicted heavy damages in the Lebanon borders and number of soliders have been killed. Next day, when I opened the newspaper, I didn?t find this news in the first page. What was in the first page was about a farmer from Russia, settled in a desert zone for the last three years in Israel who had been given few cents of land. He has cultivated the best of vegetables and fruits in the desert area with very high yield. The newspaper celebrated the success of farmer in vegetable and fruit cultivation in desert condition. Probably, the people look for and they deserve such type of news, which I consider is indeed excellence in journalism and has a market.
I have a suggestion particularly to the members of the media consisting of editors, journalists, correspondents and reporters. In our country, it is essential to have research wings in every newspaper system for developing media personnel in reporting news, event analysis and highlights. This research wing has to be linked to media research in the academic institutions. This will enable our journalists to carry out original research on topics of national interest and provide solutions to medium and long term problems. The owners of newspapers should encourage research being carried out by experienced and young reporters for acquiring post-graduate qualifications which will improve the quality of content of the print media. Participating media members must realize that continuous updating of knowledge in research environment is essential for all journalists. For example, before certain issues are discussed in foreign newspapers, they send it to an internal research group where data is studied; verified and factual news is generated and sent for publication. When there was a critical comment about outsourcing to India, a US journalist stayed in India and studied the issue and found out that the companies engaged in Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) were carrying out business where 90% of the equipments were imported from USA and Europe. Thus, they found that the BPO industries provided an indirect market for the hardware industries of the USA and Europe. Immediately this was reported in the Indian media in a big way. Similarly a Discovery Channel media person wanted to study India?s growth in Information Technology, Thomas Friedman came to India and stayed for a month and visited Bangalore and other places. Based on his news analysis he wrote a book titled ?The World is Flat?. This book has become famous not only in India but throughout the world. Such is the power of research. I would suggest our Indian newspaper agencies should encourage research being carried out by our young correspondents and journalists within India and abroad in academic research institutions, which will definitely improve the excellence in reporting and enhance the participation of journalists in national development missions. Now, I would like to give two recent examples, where media can play an important role.
Promoting the cause of farmers
Dear Journalist friends, quite often I have seen the media reports on the typical problems of farmers, particularly agricultural farmers in certain regions of the nation including Vidarbha. Based on my visit to Vidarbha last month, I would like to share certain experiences with you, so that you can focus on the problems faced by the farmers indicating possible solutions as a news item. I personally believe while we flash the problem, there has to be a team in the media group of a particular newspaper to understand the problem after spot study and either frame an editorial or an extended news item, highlighting the possible long term and short term solutions. Hence, I am spending a few minutes on two important societal aspects which I came across last month, so that the journalists assembled here can assimilate and respond.
I have been in discussion with farmers, agricultural scientists, administrators, journalists and public concerned with the national development, particularly the present situation of agriculture. During my visit to the drought affected area of Vidarbha district, Maharashtra on 15th June 2007, I met the farmers at Yavatmal. They reiterated the situation that the cotton farmers have not been able to realize reasonable revenue from their farming operations. The output has been low and in some cases there has been total loss due to frequent droughts. In some cases, the farmers have been supplied with Bt cotton seeds expecting better yield. However, the better yield from Bt cotton can come only when there is no shortage of water. After discussions with the farmers and specialists, I found that there is a need to take an overall view of the cotton farming operation in the region. This should include provision of quality input, training the farmers on improved methods of farming or cultivation, marketing of the produce and action to be taken when there is failure of rain. For preventing severe drought, there is a need to create large number of water bodies to harvest rain water which will be useful during the period of drought. In addition, there is a need for local textile industry to work with the farmer and provide them marketing support for their produce without going through the process of middlemen. Also, the banking system should reach every village in the Vidarbha district so that the farmers are not exploited by the money lenders. In this connection, I would like to recall the e-Choupal system established by ITC Ltd. in various areas where farmers have been able to enhance their productivity and realize better value for their products. In this regard, I would also like to mention that there is a model available in Gheri Buttar, Punjab where a collaborative work among farmers, industry, research institution and academic institution has resulted in doubling the seed cotton productivity. I am of the view that relief and programme packages have to be combined with a plan of implementation and targets, and an organizational structure and accountability for implementation. The journalists, particularly the editorial team of the journal working in the Vidarbha area may like to study the problem in detail and suggest methodologies to help the State Government for finding lasting solution to the satisfaction of the farmers. Now, I would like to talk on another important area namely dealing with various forms of medical emergencies which requires media attention.
National Emergency Service Mission
Everyday we find road accidents and many other emergencies leading to loss of life and property which is much higher than the loss due to war or internal terrorists attack. There is a method to save over a million lives every year and prevent the associated damages, which has been put into practice in Andhra Pradesh. This Emergency Management and Research System in Hyderabad deals with various types of emergencies such as road traffic accidents, birth related emergencies, criminal emergency and fire related emergency. They have developed a system which integrates multiple agencies to provide quick and comprehensive emergency response. The starting for the emergency process begins with a call to a toll free number 108 either from a fixed or a mobile phone. This enables timely arrival of an ambulance equipped with emergency first aid equipment and the patient to be taken to the nearest medical aid centre. This programme has been launched in all the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh including rural areas and is equipped with 380 ambulances. To date over 11,500 precious lives have been saved and the average response time realized between receiving a call and reaching a hospital has been reduced to 36 minutes. The facility is available to all the citizens for on a 24 hour seven day week basis. This programme is also being launched in some other states. This programme is required to be extended to all the States and the Union Territories in the country. That will enable reception of about one million calls per day and saving of one million lives a year.
The nation needs a national emergency service mission to save the lives of over one million people a year. A partnership for the mission has to come from the government, healthcare centres, corporate in both public and private sector, police and district authorities and societal organisations. Journalists can play a very important role in realizing this mission by effectively articulating all aspects suitably to all the Stake holders of the programme and quantifying the benefits which can accrue to the society.
Journalism is truth expressed in intelligible language for information and education of the readers. True journalism vitalizes the nation. There is no room for sensationalism in it even if in the short run it might sell. It will be sheer sacrilege. True journalism is courageous, truthful, inspiring and exalting.
Courage to think different,
Courage to invent,
Courage to travel into an unexplored path,
Courage to combat the problems,
And Succeed in providing true information,
Are the unique qualities of the achievers.
Such journalism can be an effective tool for economic and political development of the nation. The media have a tremendous impact on the impressionable minds of the younger generation and anything other than courageous, truthful and positive journalism would strike at the very root of the future of a healthy younger generation on whom the future of the entire nation would depend.
Keeping the national need of media for one billion people in mind, I would suggest the inclusion of two additional categories as part of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism awards namely (i) excellence in promoting rural prosperity and (ii) excellence in promoting Panchayati Raj System from the year 2007-08.
Once again let me congratulate all the award winners and my best wishes to Indian Express Group as a partner in national development.
May God bless you.
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam