New Delhi: Accusing Indian media of promoting superstitions and backward ideas to divert people's attention from real issues, Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Thursday alleged that the media houses are often looked upon by their owners as the means of making money.

"In India, the recent tendencies show the media playing a reactionary role. Instead of promoting scientific thinking, it promotes superstitions and backward ideas and diverts attention from real issues which are socio-economic, to non-issues like lives of film stars, cricket, astrology, etc," Katju said in a statement on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

He appealed media persons to fulfill their social responsibility by promoting scientific and rational thinking and combating backward thoughts.

Observing that scientific ideas can solve the problems of poverty, unemployment and lack of health-care faced by the country, he said, "The media is often looked upon by its owners as a means of making money- hence the importance of T.R.P rating."

On businessmen owning media houses, he said, "Indian media, is no doubt, largely controlled by businessmen who wish to make money. There is nothing wrong in making money but this must be coupled with social responsibility."

"While Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution grants freedom of the media. This provision has to be read along with Article 51 A (h) which lays down that it is the duty of all citizens to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform," he added.

Justice Katju said he regretted that media persons, though lay great emphasis on fundamental rights they usually forget their fundamental duties.

"80 percent of Indians are suffering from poverty, unemployment, price rise, health issues, education, housing and evils such as honour killing, dowry deaths, farmer’s suicides, child malnutrition and female foeticide. These problems can be resolved by scientific thinking which must be spread to every nook and corner of the country," Justice Katju said.

Recommending that Indian media should emulate the path shown by European writers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Thomas Paine, who had attacked feudal and backward ideas, Katju said, "Media has a great role to play in this transitional period through which India is passing."

Media is not an ordinary business which deals with commodities, it deals with ideas, which should be used to benefit people and not harm them, he said.

Deliberating upon freedom of press, Justice Katju said, "It can both help society and also damage it. It is like a knife which can be used for cutting things and also stabbing people. Freedom of the media cannot be regarded as always good. It depends for what purpose it is being used."

He said that it is the, "patriotic duty of all citizens, including media people, to promote scientific temper and combat backward ideas like casteism, communalism and superstitions."


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