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Letters from India
Raising Demand for a Media Grievance Cell
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
Gauhati/Guwahati Press Club

Northeast used to witness a media boom prior to the corona disaster and so does frequent incidents of media misuse. Currently the newspapers, news channels, and radio outlets reach half of its population, but the digital media starts counting more people under its influence, thanks to the Covid-19 tempted lockdown for many months. As the technology-driven digital outlets are more user-friendly and participatory in nature (than the mainstream media), the social media platforms have given enormous power to the common people to express their views and often to raise questions over the recognized media outlets. Increasing number of biased & self-contradictory news items, useless editorial-opinions, incompetent television talk shows, etc have ruined the medium and it has slowly eroded the number of committed subscribers.

Understanding the need of regular orientation and training programs for professional scribes to help them cope up with the global media trend, a vital demand for a modern multi-media center in Guwahati has been raised. Regular programs like press meets/briefings, interactive sessions with distinguished personalities, screenings of national & international classic movies & documentary, video conferences with foreign journalist-writer-scholars, training and workshops for young scribes, regular health camps etc are being projected for the centre, which will benefit the working journalists of the region. The eco-friendly centre should have rooftop solar energy plates, an efficient garbage management & rainwater harvesting system to showcase it as an unique centre in eastern India.

State chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is also urged to take personal interest in materialising the project nearby the proposed International Convention Center on the south bank of Brahmaputra. Various city-based media organisations including the press clubs are expected to be accommodated in the premises with the arrangement of nominal annual rents. Along with the government support, its managing committee may adopt plans for generating funds for its activities. The committee should incorporate representatives from the information & public relations department, civil administration, police- medical-engineering-environment departments besides the media house owners, editors, reporters, news-desk employees, photo-visual journalists, media columnists, etc.

Apprehensions now surface as the government planned to construct the RBI-Ambari-Silpukhuri- Chandmari-Bamunimaidan flyover, following which the useful working space in Gauhati/Guwahati Press Club will be drastically reduced. Lately, the government has sanctioned a plot of land for the press club in Beltola-Basistha area, where the foundation stone for a building was also laid by IPR minister Piyush Hazarika. It means the press club has to move to the southern part of Guwahati soon. So the demand for a media centre in the city’s central location gains more justifications, where not only media persons, but also non-media organizations and individuals will be able to organize various programs to express their views on different matters of public interest.vNeedless to mention that the oldest press club of Assam was formed in 1976 and since then it has been functioning from the Ambari archaeological site in the heart of the city. The Ambari site has been excavated several times since 1968 to find more archaeological remains. The archaeology department claims that the Ambari ruins reflect the period of Sunga-Kushana dynasty and it attracts visitors from different parts of the country. Hence the press club should vacate the location so that the richest archaeological site can be accommodated for necessary preservation and research works.

The dedicated media complex should accommodate the long pending expectations for hundreds of honest, dedicated and committed journalists to have a centre to promote professional excellence in journalism. At the same time, millions of news consumers can not be ignored any more and they too must get a comfortable space to put their grievances against the media fraternity. Pragmatic interactions between the journalists and common citizens emerge as the need of the hour and it may be possible with a media redressal unit only. Once it’s established at the centre, one can complain against the media fraternity identifying the individual or group, who were breaking the media guidelines in a habitual manner. Thus the media workers will get an opportunity to redesign their approaches to the profession and it will finally help the medium to regain its authenticity, transparency and accountability.



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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at navathakuria@gmail.com

 

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