Bengaluru: Recalling the contribution of journalists to the Indian freedom struggle, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Monday said a democracy needs a free press and the same goes for society as well.
He also said that press played an important role in educating, convincing and mobilising people.
In his keynote address after unveiling a commemorative edition of the National Herald here along with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Ansari said he was sure that the National Herald will live up to the high standards set by independent India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who set up the newspaper.
He said National Herald was launched from Lucknow in 1938 (with Nehru as its Editor) and soon became the voice of the independence movement.
“The history of freedom struggle in India is closely linked to Indian journalists, who were not merely news providers but also social activists and freedom fighters. They wanted to rid the country not only of the foreign rule but also social prejudices, casteism, communalism, and discrimination,” the Vice President said.
“Many founding members of the Congress in 1885 were journalists. The Press emerged as a tool of national awakening. It became a medium of nationalist political participation of masses,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said thousands of journalists in the country are not being allowed to write what they wish to write.
“Anybody who attempts to say the truth, or stand by truth, is pushed aside in different forms. The Dalits are beaten up; minorities are frightened; journalists are threatened; and bureaucrats are threatened,” Gandhi said.
“Journalists told me they are not allowed to write what they want. The National Herald should open door to such people,” the Congress leader said.
Recalling how he was prevented from entering Madhya Pradesh to meet the kin of farmers killed in police firing on June 6 in Mandsaur, Gandhi said a police official told him he was forced to do something he didn’t want to.
“I told him I am a citizen of India, I can go to Madhya Pradesh. On what basis are you stopping me? Is there any law which you are applying? He looked at me and said there is no law but he have been told to…,” the Congress leader said.
Gandhi also recalled how he was stopped at the Uttar Pradesh border when he wanted to meet the Dalits who had borne the brunt of a communal clash in Shabbirpur village.
“Police told me I can’t go to Uttar Pradesh. Everybody knows what the truth is but they are scared to say it,” he said.
Speaking about the National Herald, Gandhi said: “The National Herald has a very strong spirit. It is not going to remain silent. Its Editor came to me some time back. I told him there may be times where you have to say things against the Congress, against me, against some of our ideas. I want you to be absolutely comfortable; I want you to say things because it is important that we hear them.”