Serious concern was voiced in Rajya Sabha today over reported attempts to curb the independence of media by government and other agencies, control of industrial houses over media organisations, paid news and working conditions of journalists.
Initiating a discussion on the situation arising from the reported attempts to curb the independence of media and restrict the freedom of expression, Y S Chowdary (TDP) said media is considered the fourth pillar of the democracy but recently attempts have been made to restrict its freedom.
He said an attempt has been made in newly carved out state Telangana to gag freedom of expression by banning relay of two TV channels by the association of Telangana Multiple System Operators alleging they had been airing programmes denigrating Telangana dialect while the government there is a silent spectator.
Questioning the role of the elected government, he said the Telangana Assembly had earlier passed a resolution authorising the Speaker to initiate any action he deemed fit against the TV channels.
"Can we allow any of 29 states to run like princely states?...Will it not amount to dictatorship," he asked, terming the move as "deplorable" and urged the House to unanimously condemn it.
He also raised the issue of control exercised by industrial houses over media organsiations and condemned media trial of individuals.
Chowdary said the phenomenon of paid news was detrimental to the society.
Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu (Cong) charged the new Telangana Chief Minister with trying to stop communication of certain channels in the state.
He said the new regime in Telangana has already started working against their interests.
"The first Chief Minister of Telangana has created such a havoc. In 100 days they are able to censor with new methods.
"The Government should study the issue and try to evolve such a mechanism to create the necessary environment for the free flow of communication," he said.
D Raja (CPI) alleged that some media houses were not implementing the recommendations of Majithia Wage Board despite the Supreme Court ruling and wanted the government to look into the issue.
He said, "Supreme Court gave its order in February 2014 asking implementation of the Wage Board recommendations. There are few managements implementing the recommendations but partially. Many media managements are not implementing... Present government should take note of it."
Highlighting the plight of journalists in news agency UNI, he said, "UNI is in deep crisis. Journalists do not get salary for months together...As a government, you should come forward to protect the interest of journalists and non-journalists."
Tarun Vijay (BJP) said most of all our national leaders have been journalists and cited the example of Jawaharlal Nehru and Lokmanya Tilak.
He said every fight against ills in society started with the media, but expressed serious concern over the "cancer of paid media" engulfing it.
Vijay, who has himself edited a magazine, said never has there been such a situation where channels were shut down through multiple system operators.
The BJP member said there were as many as 43,000 national newspapers and 74,000 in regional languages alone.
"How to fight the cancer of paid media is a big challenge before all," he said.
He lamented that the chair of editor is now in danger as media houses are now run through marketing techniques.
He also said that while China has 22 correspondents to cover India, there are only 3 Indian correspondents covering China.
"China is reported to India through foreign news agencies," he said, adding, "Why don't Indian media houses deploy their correspondents in countries like China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal."
Brajesh Pathak (BSP) said the control over print and electronic media is not good for democracy and sought measures to check the menace.
Talking about journalists, he said India is the second most dangerous country for journalists as majority of them died here and this was a matter of great concern.
He asked the government to make the lives of journalists comfortable as they are subjected to a lot of hardships.
He said as per data available, India is rated 140th out of 180 countries on the World Press Index on control of media and said mediapersons were living a difficult life in the country.
Naresh Agrawal (SP) expressed concern over the way media been reporting Uttar Pradesh.
Citing a magazine that had cover page on UP Chief Minister, he said, "The kind of thing written was shameful."
He demanded restriction on social media saying that it is affecting younger generation.
Agrawal also expressed concern over non-payment of salary to journalists.
Condemning the ban on two television channels -- TV9 and Andhra Jyothi -- in Telangana, K Keshav Rao (TRS) wanted the government to address the issue and protect media freedom.
T Subbarami Reddy (Cong) said the two channels were banned in Telangana due to some unfortunate incidents that hurt feelings in the state.
Renuka Chowdhary (Cong) also pitched for settlement of the issue in the state saying that the Telangana government should come forward to resolve this issue.
"If you take off two prime channels, it shows you are far more vulnerable...," she said adding it was not that media was always right in reporting and there were instances of it going wrong in the past.
She also stressed the need to strengthen the Press Council India.
C M Ramesh (TDP) said that the two channels were banned in Telangana without issuing any notices. It is violation of government regulation, he said.
P Rajeeve (CPI-M) said paid news is a "serious threat" not only to freedom of expression but also to democracy.
Derek O'Brien (AITC) said there was need to have an independent regulatory mechanism for media and pitched for setting up of an expert committee on social media.
Harivansh (JD-U) said liberalisation has brought a lot of changes in media and there is need to revisit the Press and Registration of Books Act.
Vijay Goel (BJP) expressed concern that with the entry of corporates, media has become a commercial industry with role of editors minimising and freedom being compromised.
"Even DD and Lok Sabha TVs are running like commercial channels," he said, adding that some news are reported in a good way, while some are "distorted".