The Journalists’ Forum of Assam’s (JFA) demand for a regulatory authority for the so-called ‘alternative media’ is a timely call.
The demand comes in the wake of the massive public uprising in various parts of Assam’s Dima Hasao district after a Guwahati-based news portal carried a report (which was later picked up by the vernacular press) by an RSS pracharak claiming that a ‘draft plan’ of the RSS included a proposal that Dima Hasao district be made a part of ‘Greater Nagalim’. The report resulted in angry protests in Dima Hasao, and two people were killed when police opened fire at demonstrators.
The JFA on Sunday expressed concern over the manner in which the news portal published the news, but it also opined that the vernacular press should have authenticated the facts before publishing the news picked off a portal which is not even a registered news agency. It has urged the government to empower the Press Council of India with the inclusion of electronic and alternative media under its wing.
This step is necessary in these times when anybody with access to the social media can become a ‘journalist’ and publish half-baked subjective views without giving a thought to what consequences their reporting would spawn. This is exactly what happened with the RSS pracharak’s crooked reporting.
The pracharak in question is now denying the existence of any such draft plan and accusing the news portal of twisting out of context an opinion he had offered. Apparently, he is now saying that what he had shared with the media was his ‘personal effort’ emanating from his ‘study of the Naga issue for over 45 years.’
This is the kind of situation that should be averted by creating a regulatory authority to put such freelance operators on check. As the situation stands, it is easy for the pracharak to issue a denial, or even an apology, after the fact; but his protestations will not bring back dead people.