National Press Day, which falls on November 16, is usually a time where the Shillong-centric media in the state get together with political figures for a day of backslapping and bonhomie but Senior Advocate at the High Court, VGK Kynta, used the opportunity of being invited to this year’s function to try and get the fourth pillar of democracy to do a little more digging for the reading and viewing public.
“The Meghalaya press is too docile,” Kynta said during a panel discussion on ‘Who’s not afraid of the media’, organised by the Shillong Press Club and Directorate of Information and Public Relations.
“I need a press that will dig deep and tell us about the functioning of the government. We need that kind of a media, a press that goes into investigation mode and gives us facts. We, the common people, need a press that will give us the correct information.”
He said, “It is good to be aggressive, sometimes vindictive in order to get to the truth.”
MLA, Ampareen Lyngdoh said the press in Meghalaya is a class of its own. “Practically speaking in other parts of the country, there is deterioration and corrosion in the media which is worrisome,” she said.
Lyngdoh praised the press in the state and urged journalists to continue in its efforts to ensure that all kinds of stories should be heard through balance coverage.
Former DGP, WR Marbaniang questioned on whether the media is independent. “While not being afraid and agreeing that the media is a sentinel of democracy the media should introspect and see there is certain amount of independence in what they write and say.”
MDC, Paul Lyngdoh urged journalists to perform their duties to the best. “We also live in an age where a lot of us suffer from mental constipation and verbal diarrhoea. I think the media here is still safe and we are an emerging democracy. So we can shift the balance from the big businesses and corporate and the media should tilt the balance in favour of the voiceless,” he said.
Other panellists included Larsing M Sawyan, MD, Centre Point Group of Enterprises and Joy Syiem, Policy Lead, North Eastern Network.
Information and Public Relations Minister James Sangma, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council Chief Executive Member Titosstarwell Chyne and IPR Secretary Mawsiewdor War Nongbri attended the inaugural function.
“I started my career as a journalist, hence I feel a strong connection and find it very meaningful to be a part of the National Press Day celebration,” Sangma said in his address, adding that journalism is the art of storytelling, a concept which, in this ‘post-truth era’, everyone is still grappling with.
Another common feature of National Press Day is the promise from the government to meet demands of the press fraternity and the minister assured the gathering that the administration is committed to fulfil the needs of the press with regards to the journalists’ pension plan and welfare fund.