Is the Press in Goa Gagged and Caged?

World Press Freedom Day is observed annually on May 3, to remind us that Freedom of the Press and Freedom of expression are fundamental human rights.

The Press, like the Judiciary, has to be free from political, government or any other interference. In fact, this is their professional duty — of journalists to be totally independent and unbiased with no leanings towards any political party or politician.

However, sadly today most of the journalist fraternity in Goa have become a mouth piece of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, patently falling prey to his strategy of carrot and stick, to cunningly manage and manipulate a large chunk of media.

This is nothing new for the current Chief Minister who is very intolerant to any criticism. In fact, during his earlier tenure as Chief Minister he had served a legal notice, warning the editors of all newspapers in Goa. Recently he openly threatened some newspapers with stoppage of Government advertisements, to coerce them to toe his line.  Journalists should not fall prey to the crumbs of Government’s largesse and return the favour with censored news.

But for the social networking sites like Face book and some Goa related internet web sites, we would have been in the dark about the true state of affairs in Goa. So, through his chums, Manohar Parrikar has now started targeting the internet sites too. The fake IDs generated by the saffron brigade on Face book are there for all to see.

In fact the media should be reporting the news as it happens and never taking sides. The views of the newspaper on any issue should only be expressed through the editorials. Freedom of expression is one of our most precious right without which there cannot be true democracy and as a consequence will not ensure good governance.

The threat to freedom of the press in Goa hangs like the proverbial sword of Damocles. The current government cannot be boasting of respecting the freedom of the press. The press is considered to be the watchdog of democracy. Sadly, there is scant regard for this truism in Goa though ironically, our country is the world’s largest democracy.

Self-discipline, which is so crucial for the survival of any democracy, is fast disappearing.  Tolerance levels are declining and arrogance is all-pervasive. More often than not, political power is used to further the cause of the power-hungry rather than to serve the masses. The press, on its part, should bear in mind that freedom of the press does not mean a license to write anything that suits those in power. This freedom is precious and it has to be used judiciously and fairly. When this freedom is misused to keep those in power content, the public respect for this profession is bound to diminish.

May the words of Thomas Jefferson inspire all those in that noble journalism profession “When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

-By Aires Rodrigues

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