The Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) J&K Regional Branch held its 13th Sat Paul Sahni Memorial Lecture on "Free Press and the Constitution of India" here today.The event was attended by several notable speakers including Judge of J&K High Court, Justice Sanjeev Kumar Shukla; Chairman IIPA (J&KRB), BR Sharma; Patron IIPA (J&KRB), Dr Ashok Bhan and Hony Secretary, IIPA (J&KRB), Professor Alka Sharma.
Justice Sanjeev Kumar Shukla, who was the keynote speaker, paid tributes to Sahni during his speech. He highlighted Sahni's achievements including his distinction of covering all four wars of 1947, 1962, 1965 and 1971.
During his lecture, Justice Shukla discussed freedom of expression and free press. He stated that free press cannot be conceived unless it is afforded protection by the provisions of the Constitution of India. He referred to Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India which states that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Justice Shukla elaborated specifically on Freedom of Press vis a vis subjects of media trials and contempt of court. He warned that partial news coverage may lead to wrongly shaping public opinion. He accepted that media has also helped highlight issues pertaining to human rights and other issues of significance to the society. He also highlighted the issue of sensationalisation which may mar fair course of justice.
B R Sharma spoke about the significance of freedom of press in a democratic society. “Its freedom gives it power, but power in democracy implies responsibility,” said Sharma. “No institution in a democracy can have absolute power. The press is critical to the functioning of a participatory democracy. It is the fourth pillar and has to play its role”, he added.
Sharma further maintained that the press has to act as a watchdog, ask questions to people in power, keep an eye on government, investigate and report on issues of public importance. He also spoke about media trials and the tendency to sensationalize matters and encroach into the jurisdiction of courts where they try to impede justice.
Dr. Ashok Bhan threw light on the significance of freedom of press in a democratic society and emphasised that independence of media is a sacred right of citizens in a democracy and its nexus with the political executive seriously impinges on the rights of citizens.
He mentioned that the debate on realizing the dream of an independent media will continue throughout the democratic world. The freedom of speech and expression available to the media needs to be nurtured very carefully in the service of citizens, he added.
Director (Seminars) of IIPA (J&K Regional Branch), KB Jandial, spoke about Sat Paul Sahni's life and career in journalism. "Sahni had a long career in journalism who represented many prestigious news organizations. His contribution towards promotion of Ladakh tourism cannot be forgotten", he said.
Dr. Alka Sharma presented vote of thanks and paid tributes to Sat Paul Sahni.Dr. Sharma acknowledged Sahni's contribution in establishing the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) in Jammu and Kashmir.Among others the event was attended by media veterans, senior retired officials, students of journalism besides other prominent citizens and members of the media fraternity.