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ASU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication organises media festival on the theme ‘decoding new India’

At the event, journalists dwelled upon the freedom of press, free speech, and the role of the digital medium

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Panel discussion at SJMC’s media festival

Apeejay Stya University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) welcomed a gathering of esteemed journalists at the annual Media Festival 2022, held at Kamaladevi Complex, India International Centre, New Delhi. From the founders of flourishing media houses to veteran columnists, each of the speakers decoded “new India”, the theme of the event, in the context of journalism.  

Media in new India  

Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia

Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, co-founder and chancellor, Apeejay Stya University (ASU), who attended the session virtually said while opening the event, “The Indian media and entertainment industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. As the fourth pillar of democracy, the media in our nation and the world has grown considerably. While many of us were confined to our homes during the lockdowns, media professionals left no stone unturned to bring to us necessary information and critical issues. At SJMC, while we leave no stone unturned to prepare our students professionally for the media world of today, it is also well-aligned with Apeejay Stya University’s focus on a well-rounded education and transdisciplinary linkages which have been put in place right from the inception and which paves the way for our graduates to understand myriad dimensions of the world around them and instills necessary values in them for responsible reportage as well as research, critical thinking and critical analysis, needed as journalists among other things.”

“The world has undergone a topsy-turvy phase in recent times not only because of the pandemic challenges but also because of natural disasters, growing international conflicts, and civil unrest. It is at times like these that we as human beings need to discuss mindfully and evolve for the future…Indeed, it is a thriving media that keeps us updated on everything that is happening in the world. Resilience in the media and its continued responsible growth is essential to the growth of the world.” She went on to congratulate SJMC for organising the media festival, adding that the occasion also marked the 10th year of the establishment of the school.

Professor Raj S Dhankar

Drawing attention to the contradictions that make up India, ASU Vice Chancellor Professor Raj S Dhankar said, “Our constitution has great contradictions which we have not been able to narrow down despite so many years of independence. Our constitution guarantees political equality. Although women’s participation in the assembly has increased, it is still a microscopic minority in these bodies. Talking about the role of polity, it is very important to analyse the political parties, their attitudes, beliefs and bias. Women’s economic contribution through household work is unrecognised and unpaid. Their share of earned income remains as low as 25 per cent. They do not enjoy property rights equal to men in several states even today. In higher education, the constitution guarantees equality of opportunity to all citizens. However, we are far from achieving this goal. There is a huge disparity in access to education among boys and girls. We cannot become a world superpower unless our education system is strengthened.”

Professor Sanjay Ahirwal

Today, the internet has emerged as the more popular medium for the dissemination of news, especially social media. While it is believed to have made news more accessible to the masses, Professor Sanjay Ahirwal, Dean of SJMC, stressed how the right to information is challenged through systematic blocking of the internet. “Just in 2021, authorities in 34 countries around the world blocked the internet 182 times, out of which maximum was in India. It was blocked 106 times. So where is the free access?”

Siddharth Varadarajan

Siddharth Varadarajan, Founder, The Wire, said, “New India is a product of old India which had a lot of problems, but the scale of tussle is immense. The kind of threats that the media has to confront today had not existed in the past. We are dealing with a crisis-like situation today as far as freedom of press is concerned.”


The Modi phenomenon

Mr Swapan Dasgupta, a Rajya Sabha MP and senior journalist, began the session as the keynote speaker with his take on the public vs private persona of Prime Minister Narendra Modi–who he called a “great orator and compelling speaker”—and the varied perceptions that have established the idea of Modi as we know him.

The Modi phenomenon was further elaborated by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, best known for his biography of the prime minister titled ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times’. In conversation with NDTV anchor and senior editor Ankita Mukherji, the author narrated anecdotes about his meetings with the prime minister, the possibility of writing a sequel, and more.

Vocal for local

Celebrated news anchor Ravish Kumar, Group Editor, NDTV, moderated an insightful session on the topic “Will new India be vocal for local news?” Sharing his take on the centre’s focus on building a “new India”, he went on to question the media’s freedom to uncover the truth. He went on to discuss with his panellists Neha Dixit, senior journalist, and Meera Devi, Managing Editor, Khabar Lahariya, the challenges local news organisations and independent journalists face in reporting. 

From left to right: Neha Dixit, Ravish Kumar and Meera Devi

The power of technology

Addressing the elephant in the room Kanchan Gupta, journalist and senior advisor, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, spoke about the role of big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter in eliminating net neutrality and disseminating selective news, thereby dominating free speech and influencing the nation’s growth.

Kanchan Gupta

“The idea of structured media will gradually decline if not disappear. More people are watching YouTube than TV channels. Individual content creators have greater traction,” he added.

Among the other panellists were Abhinandan Sekhri, CEO & Co-founder, Newslaundry, Ashutosh, Senior Journalist and founder, Stya Hindi, Ritu Kapur, CEO & Co-founder, The Quint, and Sanjoy Majumdar, Managing Editor, BBC, who discussed the pertinent issue of consumers’ willingness to pay for news.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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