Mixing news with views dangerous, says CJI N.V. Ramana

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Wednesday said mixing news with views was a dangerous cocktail and, “nothing can be more lethal to democracy than the deadly combination of confrontational polity and competitive journalism.”

Delivering the keynote address at the Red Ink Awards for excellence in journalism, the CJI said, “Journalists are like judges in one sense. Regardless of the ideology you profess and the beliefs you hold dear, you must do your duty without being influenced by them. You must report only the facts, with a view to give a complete and accurate picture.”

Justice Ramana spoke about attention-grabbing news and said, “An issue that has gained prominence recently is linked to what is called the attention economy. In the hope of grabbing eyeballs, the headlines that are given for news reports are catchy, but misleading. It is said that the legal profession is a noble profession. But I can state that the journalist profession is noble.”

Talking about his journey, the CJI said, “As someone who started his professional career as a journalist, I can understand your difficulties and struggles. Speaking truth to power and holding up a mirror to society is an immense responsibility that is extremely difficult to fulfil.”

He highlighted the importance of freedom of press and said, “Women, particularly beyond metros, still find it difficult to gain a foothold in the profession. Freedom of press is a valuable and sacred right enshrined in the Constitution. Without such freedom, there cannot be discussion and debate that is essential for the growth of a democracy. When it comes to other Indian language media and small media houses, it is the regular political reporter who doubles up as legal reporter whenever the necessity arises.”

Justice Ramana, however, added, “Unlike print and electronic media, unfortunately, it is almost impossible to hold social media platforms such as YouTube accountable even after they host most derogatory and defamatory stuff which has the potential to ruin careers and lives.”

He concluded his speech by paying respects to the late Danish Siddiqui, and said, “He was a man with a magical eye and was rightly regarded as one of the foremost photo-journalists of this era. If a picture can tell a thousand words, his photos were novels.”

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