Not trying to gag media: Katju

Hyderabad, April 5 (IANS) Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Markandey Katju Friday advised media persons not be upset over his idea for a minimum qualification for journalists and clarified that he was not trying to gag the media.

A six-member committee constituted recently by Katju to submit a report on the issue held its meeting here.

Katju told reporters that he mooted the idea as journalism like medical science and other fields has developed, requiring formal training and formal qualification.

“I have not created a law. I have just thrown up an idea which may or may not be accepted. It will undergo various procedural stages. One need not be upset about it. It is an idea. It should he discussed in public domain,” he said

“There is no need to be upset or worried as if I am trying to muzzle the media or gag the media. I am a strong believer in media freedom.”

“It is true that we had great journalists who never had any formal training or formal qualification. They became great journalists despite not having formal training or qualification and not because they did not have formal training.

“I am sure there must have been thousands of journalists who could not become great journalists and remained sub-standard journalists because they had no formal training and qualification.”

Katju said the report of the committee would be placed before the full-fledged PCI, which may accept or reject it. If accepted, the report would be sent to government, which would then table it before parliament for its approval and this could become a legislation only after the President gives his assent.

Sharavan Garg, who is heading the committee, said they would try to submit the report as early as possible. He said the panel would also discuss a way to ensure quality in the education of mass communication in view of the mushrooming of the institutes.

Katju said the standards of journalism were going down because of commercialization, corporatization and also because of lack of job security to journalists.

“Majority of media persons are poorly paid. Many of them are on contract basis. They have no job security. Many are paid Rs.4,000 to Rs.5,000 a month, which is a pittance. In these times of rising prices they have to supplement the income to feed families and they do it by paid news. Paid news is rampant in this country. It is sad but it is true,” he said.

Stressing the need for job security, he said this would help journalists work fearlessly. “I could express my views so frankly and fearlessly because I have job security. Even the government can’t take away my job,” he added.

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