Media Monitoring Centre
We are concerned about the government's professed move to set up a "media monitoring centre" to keep an eye on news items published in different media. We are at a loss to understand the rationale behind it when there is a Press Information Department (PID) to do that. The Information Minister is suggesting that the monitoring centre would oversee that media houses do not create divisions in the society by writing against different religions and beliefs and/or create anarchy. But when, in recent times, has the mainstream media done anything close to denigrating any particular religion or religious group or "creating divisions" in society? How has it created anarchy, such that we need a cell to police it further? Has it not, rather, promoted religious tolerance, secularism and pluralism?
We would like to state that it is the extremists who are denigrating people and their faith, killing those who do not subscribe to their particular interpretation of religion or belong to a religion or sect different than their own. These are the people that the government should be targeting and monitoring, not the media, which has consistently played a key role in fighting extremism and intolerance and promoting democracy and good governance. We also remain sceptical about who would interpret what counts as "creating divisions" or "anarchy" and on what terms.
Would we be remiss in suggesting that the purpose of this move is to regulate the materials that are deemed unfavourable to the government? This is an attempt to intimidate the media, and will lead to self-censorship on the part of media houses and severely curtail freedom of expression. Let us not forget that a free media is not just important but essential to a functioning democratic society.