Coming to terms with freedom

The news media is challenged on the 75th anniversary of independence

Coming to terms with freedom
At a time when the economy is recovering and India is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Independence, we must reestablish our democratic ideals and the rule of law, eschewing all forms of violence. Photo: iStockphoto

The society, culture, publishers, citizens, and their state and judiciary are still, on the 75th anniversary of independence, to come to terms with our republican constitution. No amount of flag-waving should distract us from the central fact of state-sanctioned violence and the principles of justice and freedom of expression for all citizens. And freedom from every kind of violence.

Although we have a constitution and a legal system, the spirit and letter of the law cannot be taken for granted. As we can see from the recent reversal or lapsing of Roe v Wade in the United States, the courts can reverse modern democratic and human and women’s rights orders when they are themselves in collusion with anti-democratic forces. And we cannot say, as some Indian political leaders said in the past in answer to criticism, that “this is a worldwide phenomenon.” All democracies are in the process of becoming more perfect, and what drives them forward in their quest is to expand and establish these rights in the courts. Unfortunately, at this time, our courts are themselves lamenting that they are not being heard.

The problem is more serious for the news media as many of its journalists languish in jail, and others are threatened into silence and self-censorship. On the one hand, the legacy news media needs to establish its credibility among readers, who rightly suspect it of being sold out to the government and advertisers. On the other hand, legacy media is under threat from big tech such as Facebook and Google, which is stealing its readers and revenues. The legacy media’s silence on many instances of cast and minority violence is not improving its credibility and is merely handing over the conversations to digital and social media. 

In the instance of the release of the convicted rapists and murderers in the Bilkis Bano case, the television media has been relatively more forthright. The release of the convicts has brought mostly initial coverage of the release followed by a stupefied silence from the legacy print media about its justice, morality, or the protests that are daily taking place. A notable exception is Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s editorial page column in The Indian Express on 19 August 2022, ‘Is this how justice ends?’ (Subsequently, on 21 August some columnists such as Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyer and Tavleen Singh have spoken out in their regular Sunday columns in the Times of India and The Indian Express, respectively.)

Mehta’s opening paragraph reads, “Let us make no mistake about it. The approval by the Gujarat government panel for the remission of sentences of 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano, the murder of a three-year-old child, and participating in the murder of 13 others is not just a travesty of justice. It is also a dangerous political dog whistle. The government may yet reconsider its order. The Supreme Court may, if approached, overturn it although it gave permission for the remission application to be considered. But the damage has already been done. “Is this how justice ends?” Bilkis Bano’s poignant question pierces through the carefully constructed facades of the Indian republic. The haunting force of this question has no answer. The fact that the force of this question is not even being felt widely is a testimony to a moral numbing of the republic and its blatant communalisation.”

At a time when the economy is recovering, and we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of our independence, we must reestablish our democratic ideals and the rule of law, eschewing all forms of violence. Our newspapers were crusaders for freedom and justice – this must remain their keystone in the agenda of nation-building. 

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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Naresh Khanna
Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.


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