Media’s failure to be watchdogs worries Catholic journalists
Mumbai, Dec 1, 2021: The Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) on December 1 expressed deep concern over the media’s failure to become the watchdog of governance in the country.
Media, the fourth pillar of democracy has failed in its sacred duty of scrutinizing the government’s policies and programs. Instead it has turned out to be a pliable institution trying to live out of the ‘favors’ dished out by the government, bemoaned the association at its 26th national convention held at St. Paul’s Media Complex at Bandra in Mumbai.
The theme of the convention was “Hit the Streets: Listen, Encounter, Engage” based on Pope Francis’s message this year for the World Communications Day that focuses on “Come and See (Jn 1:46): Communicating by Encountering People Where and as They Are.”
Speaking at the inaugural function, Justice Aloysius Aguiar, a former Judge of Bombay High Court, said, “A good journalist is one who hits the street in pursuit of truth despite all the hardships and threats to life. But unfortunately the fourth pillar of democracy in the country has failed in its sacred duty of scrutinizing the government’s policies and programs. Instead it has turned out to be a pliable institution trying to live out of the ‘favors’ dished out by the government.”
More than 30 Christian journalists from across the country attended the convention held after a gap of two years, effected the pandemic.
The ecclesial advisor to ICPA, Bishop Salvadore Lobo, reminded the participants of how Jesus should be the role model for every journalist. “Jesus hit the street to listen to the different stories of the people, encountered them at their different walks of life and engaged them to bring about lasting transformation,” Bishop Lobo said.
In a panel discussion on the theme, speakers expressed concern over how media has failed to be a watchdog and instead it has become a tool to peddle fake news and spread misinformation and a means to malign individuals and denigrate communities. The panelists were Mohan Sivanand, former editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, Jesuit activist Father Cedric Prakash and Shaison Ouseph, head of Department for Film and Television, Xavier Institute of Communications in Mumbai.
A press release noted that the convention called the Catholic communicators to hit the streets by listening, encountering and engaging with the people on the ground.
“Like Jesus our Master who has taught us what communication is all about, we need to take a visible and a vocal stand for truth and justice. We have to take journalism as a potent weapon in the fight against unjust systems in society and where justice is denied to people. This should be our non-negotiable motto which alone will create the desired result,” said the statement signed by ICPA president Ignatius Gonsalves.
Sister Sujata Jena, a nun-political-activist belonging to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Odisha, Father Cedric Prakash, a well known Jesuit activist Priest based in Gujarat and Ranchi based Hindi based magazine Nishkalanka, were awarded during the convention for their courageous contribution to the people through media activism.
The final statement urged journalists to have the courage to heal the illness plaguing society. “Today we pledge to listen to the people, encounter and engage with them to make our communication more effective and responsive until that time truth, justice, reconciliation and peace prevail,” the statement added.