26 Press Bodies Introduce Bill to Safeguard Media Independence

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The draft legislation invites public feedback until June 30, after which a finalised version will be submitted to the government

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – As the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections approaches, esteemed press bodies in the country have taken a significant step towards bolstering media transparency and shielding it from undue governmental influence. The Press Club of India has introduced the Media Transparency (and Accountability) Bill, 2024, intending to foster a media landscape that is free from external coercion and upholds the principles of fairness and accountability.

The bill, presented by Gautam Lehri, President of the Press Club of India, at a consultative meeting convened on May 28, underscores a collective effort by 26 press bodies nationwide to address pressing issues within the media sector.

“This draft bill signifies our commitment to ensuring a media environment that operates with integrity and remains impervious to external pressures,” Lehri said during the unveiling of the legislation.

At its core, the Media Transparency (and Accountability) Bill, 2024, seeks to establish a National Media Council, tasked with overseeing media practices to prevent bias and unfair reporting. It also advocates for the creation of a National Media Fund, aimed at providing vital support to emerging media ventures, thereby promoting diversity and innovation in the media landscape.

Hartosh Singh Bal, Executive Editor of The Caravan and a key member of the drafting committee, hailed the bill as a significant milestone in enhancing media accountability. “This legislation represents a crucial step towards fostering a media ecosystem that is accountable to the public and operates with the highest standards of integrity,” Bal said.

The proposed bill aligns with electoral promises made by various political entities, including the Congress, which has pledged to address media monopolies and advocate for the mandatory disclosure of media ownership details.

Outlined within the framework of the National Media Council are membership provisions, including representation from eminent judicial figures, seasoned journalists, and leading media organisations across the country. Additionally, voluntary participation from parliamentarians representing national political parties is encouraged, contingent upon transparent media ownership disclosure.

The draft bill invites public feedback until June 30, after which a finalised version will be submitted to the government for consideration. This inclusive approach underscores the commitment of India’s press bodies to foster a media environment that is transparent, independent, and accountable.

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