Rajya Sabha to form an informal group of MPs to discuss challenges posed by social media- Vice President

New Delhi:The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today advised media to provide more coverage to the substantive work being done by the parliament rather than only focusing on sensational remarks or disruptive behavior by some members.

Presenting the first ‘TVR Shenoy Award for Excellence in Parliamentary Journalism’ to veteran political journalist Shri Vinod Sharma, Shri Naidu called the press as the extension of parliament as it holds the elected representatives accountable to the people whom they represent.

The Vice President called the parliamentary committees as a beautiful system within our parliamentary system. All members discuss and debate there constructively as there is no media glare, he said.

However, Shri Naidu expressed concern that the Chairman of the several parliamentary standing committees now complain of only one third of the members attending the meetings on an average. This is a worrying trend, he said. He also said that he is planning to write to all political parties regarding this.

The Vice President called the role of a parliamentary journalist of critical importance, as people form their opinions based on the information provided by the press. With this information, they analyze and evaluate the performance of their elected representatives and the government.

Therefore, VP urged the media to not color news with views and stressed the need to maintain objectivity, fairness and accuracy in reporting. “Impartiality and objectivity of press is of supreme importance for a democracy to survive and flourish”, he said.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, who described journalism as ‘service’, Shri Naidu expressed concern over politicians and business groups setting up newspapers and TV channels. “This erodes the credibility and core values of journalism”, he observed.

He also called upon media bodies to come up with some sort of self regulation to ensure that credibility and reliability of press remains steadfast.

Highlighting that press fought hard for its freedom, the Vice President called for using this freedom judiciously. He also drew media’s attention towards its responsibility to provide people correct information and educate them on their rights.

Further, Shri Naidu appealed to media to demystify parliament’s procedures and work, insisting that “people should be able to understand parliament’s functioning in easy and friendly language”. This will inspire them to become active stakeholders in the political processes, he opined.

Talking about the growing volume of parliamentary data, the Vice President felt a need to invest more in creating infrastructure, tools, capacity and skills for ‘data smart’ journalists.

“A good data journalist can help the citizens better understand the institution of parliament”, he said, adding that this may also improve the output of MPs as they would become more aware of their performance.

Shri Naidu also advocated for unhindered access to the important information generated by parliament on a day to day basis in a user friendly format.

Calling the people’s ‘right to know’ as a vital component for an informed society, Shri Naidu called for a good working relationship between the parliamentarians and journalists. If their relationship becomes too adversarial or too close, it would undermine the public’s ‘right to know’, he added.

Talking about the impact of social media on the institution of parliament and parliamentarians, VP said that it enables MPs to reach their constituencies directly and is also a good medium for obtaining public feedback.

However, he also cautioned the parliamentarians to be aware of social media’s potential to spread fake news and misinformation. In this regard, he called for the creation of a system of checks and balances to curb the possible misuse of social media by anti social elements.

In this regard, Shri Naidu said that Rajya Sabha will form an informal group of MPs to discuss various challenges posed by social media, such as the spread of pornographic content.

He expressed worry that this trend on social media is misleading the children and posing the biggest challenge to Indian values by devaluing our age old family system.

Appreciating the initiative by Prof. K.V. Thomas Vidyadhanam Trust to institute an award to honour late Shri T.V.R. Shenoy, Vice President said that Shri Shenoy was an illustrious journalist and editor who served the public cause through his writings for five decades.

I also congratulate Shri Vinod Sharma, Political Bureau Chief, Hindustan Times on being conferred first TVR Shenoy Award for Excellence in Parliamentary Journalism.

Shri A.K Antony, former Defence Minister, Prof. K.V. Thomas, Chairman, Trust, Dr. Omcheri NN Pillai, Chairman of Jury and Smt. Sarojam, wife of late Shri TVR Shenoy were among the dignitaries present at the event.