By Vijay Darda | 13-10-2013
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no society, state or country in this world can advance on the path of development without the freedom of expression. Since the individual’s expression lacks the strength of collectivity, it is the media that gives voice to the thought of common people which is what we call freedom of press. The whole world recognizes the fact that a free press is crucial for the sustenance of democracy which is the best form of governance. Both freedom of press and democracy are inseparable.
As long as the press is free, democracy will exist. Without free press, democracy will not survive. But do you know that only 14.5 per cent of population in the world is fortunate enough to enjoy freedom of press. It means just 103 crore out of 711 crore in the world enjoy freedom of expression. The day the entire world gets the right to exercise free expression we can assume that humanity is truly ruling the world. To establish the rule of humanity, the world press is constantly striving and making sacrifices. As many as 141 journalists lost their lives while discharging their duty in the last 29 years.
The statistics that I am putting forward are the results of the survey conducted by the prestigious institution called Freedom House. It conducted the survey covering 197 countries and nation states. It has been presenting the analytical statistics of the freedom of press since 1980. Though these statistics worry me a lot, they do not shake my confidence as I am a part of the Lokmat Media group that is the child of freedom movement and whose every word resonates with freedom. Lokmat was born out of freedom struggle. Lokmanya Tilak had named it; Mahatma Gandhi guided it; its baptism took place under the guidance of Loknayak Bapuji Aney; and the paper achieved greater heights of popularity and public acceptance under the leadership of veteran freedom fighter and Lokmat founder-editor, my father late Jawaharlalji Darda.
After India became Independent, Lokmat turned its attention to ensure equality for the dalits, exploited and downtrodden sections of the society. We protested and fought against injustice, atrocities and downright exploitation to ensure that the neglected sections of the society get justice. When we raised our voice against religious bigotry, untouchability, superstition and corruption, it is but natural that the entrenched interests were hurt and vested political entities were upset and many efforts were made to teach a lesson to Lokmat, but how can the committed Lokmat media give in to them? It stood undaunted on the path of truth. It symbolised freedom of expression and continues to do so today; the same keenness for freedom is visible even in the next generation of the Lokmat group.
Therefore I rest assured that the Lokmat would continue to raise the voice of the common people. No power can shake it. Though Lokmat lost many a journalist colleague while discharging its anointed duty, it never lost courage. We have always remained committed to our duty, and strengthened our resolve to serve the cause of press freedom. Not just Lokmat, different language newspaper groups too have shown exemplary courage in preserving the freedom of press. I salute all such media groups. Being a staunch votary of freedom of press, the question that kept haunting my mind since years was why there was no statue of freedom of press anywhere in the world. Then I thought the concept of democracy was also given to the world by India.
Licchavi kings of Vaishali had given first preference to the public representatives in their royal courts which is remembered as the birth place of democracy. I thought why should India not give the world the symbol of freedom? I am very delighted that on the auspicious occasion of Vijaya Dashmi today, this dream is coming true. The Union Home Minister, Mr Sushilkumar Shinde, is dedicating the statue of freedom of press to the world.
The statue of freedom of press is artistically designed, and is a unique image. We have invited Union Home Minister on this auspicious occasion because it is his prime duty to protect the freedom of press. As many as 16 senior journalists of various newspapers will be felicitated on this auspicious occasion at the hands of Mr Sushilkumar Shinde in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the dignity and cause of press freedom. And yes, the union minister is going to unveil the image of hawker brethren. As we know, the hawker brethren have been playing a pivotal role in distribution of newspapers and who continue to discharge their duty whether it rains or shines.
Armed with a bundle of newspapers, the hawker knocks at your door every morning. No less is their contribution in keeping alive the freedom of expression. I would like to say one more thing on this auspicious occasion. The freedom of press is very important. Since it is the fourth pillar of democracy, it mandates upon the media that it should stay true to its role, lest we attract the charges of letting democracy deteriorate into anarchy. Let common man’s interest count for us. Every word we write should be dedicated to humanity. Here is wishing to make our society better and better. We extend our best wishes on behalf of the Lokmat group on this auspicious occasion of Dussera which symbolises victory of good over evil.
The presence of supporters of freedom of expression like you at Lokmat Group’s state-of-the-art printing plant at Butibori would enhance the dignity and seriousness of the occasion. Lokmat group welcomes you!