“Nothing can be more lethal to democracy than the deadly combination of confrontational polity and competitive journalism. Tragically, they feed on each other,’’ said Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on Wednesday. His audiences were journalists at the RedInk Awards for excellence in journalism by the Mumbai Press Club.
Speaking virtually as chief guest at the 10th anniversary of the Awards, CJI Ramana said, “A trend in reporting nowadays is the seeping of ideological stances and biases into the news story’’ with interpretation and opinions colouring what should be factual reports. “News mixed with views is a dangerous cocktail. Connected to this is the problem of partial reporting, of cherry-picking facts to give it a particular colour. ’’ “ History is witness to this hard truth,’’ he said.
The CJI said, “Allowing yourself to be co-opted by an ideology or the State is a recipe for disaster’’ before adding, “Journalists are like judges in one sense’’ and must do their duty uninfluenced by their beliefs.
What is gaining prominence recently, he said, is “the attention economy’’. “In the hope of grabbing eyeballs, the headlines that are given for news reports are The headline is often unreflective of the actual content of the reports. It is interpretative and imaginary. The headlines are then shared widely on social media, and become the news. The content is forgotten. ’’
Noting that press freedom is a sacrosanct Constitutional right, he said that it comes with “enormous responsibility’’. “The media and judiciary are together in the Mission Democracy and in promoting national interest,’’ said the CJI adding “recent trend to sermonise about judgments, and villainise judges, needs to be checked’’. “The media must have belief and trust in the judiciary. As a key stakeholder in democracy, the media has the duty to defend and protect the judiciary from motivated attacks by evil forces,’’ he said. “We have to sail together. ’’
Few would know that Justice Ramana was briefly a journalist, too.