Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi addresses the 25th National Convention of Christian Journalists in Indian capital New Delhi on Feb. 29. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
Church leaders and media pundits in India have urged Christian journalists to stand for the truth and the voiceless as the country goes through a difficult phase.
More than 100 media persons and students of communication from all over India attended the 25th National Convention of Christian Journalists in the national capital on Feb. 29.
“Media is a vocation and a mission, so Christian journalists have a duty to stand for the truth and speak for Dalits, tribals, the downtrodden and the voiceless,” Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi said during his keynote address.
“Unfortunately, the watchdog has become a lapdog in the race for sensationalism, sometimes not even checking the facts, and it is very dangerous for a democratic country. The role of the media is to tell the truth and only the truth, but it has become a casualty. It is sad that they have diverted from their responsibilities. Some media have even become cheerleaders of the ruling government.
“India has dropped to 140 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. The recent assault on journalists in the ongoing protests in northeast Delhi does not augur well for the media in the country.”
The convention, organized by the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA), addressed the theme “Journalism today: Pragmatism triumphs over principles.”
“Not only journalists but civil society is also under tremendous pressure because they feel that they have lost freedom of expression. If you criticize the government, you will be branded anti-national or if you speak for tribals you will be called urban naxals [commumists],” said H.K. Dua, former chief editor of the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times.
“But we should not run away from the truth because that is our calling, to serve as torchbearers of the truth and to keep hope alive because one day the dark clouds will disappear and the truth will prevail.”
“Everyone is afraid of the truth because it demands action, and action involves pain,” ICPA president Ignatius Gonsalves said. “No one wants to hear or speak the truth these days.”
An association of Catholic newspapers and periodicals, news agencies and publishing houses, journalists and teachers of journalism, the ICPA is one of the oldest and most active Catholic press organizations in Asia.
Founded in 1963 by the editors of three dailies (Deepika, Kerala Times and Thozhilali) and of five weeklies (The Examiner, The New Leader, The Herald, Sanjivan and Raknno), the ICPA now has over 110 members, including some of the country’s leading Catholic periodicals and publishing houses and several Catholic journalists and teachers of journalism.
Patna Jesuit Father John Barrett, the founder-editor of Hindi Catholic weekly Sanjivan, brought together the editors of these Catholic periodicals in Delhi to launch the association.
Since 1975, annual general meetings (AGMs) have been regularly held, except in 1982 when the meeting due to be held in Goa was called off at the last minute as the envisaged funds had not come.
From 1995, AGMs have been preceded by a National Convention of Christian Journalists. In 2002, the ICPA decided to invite delegates from other South Asian countries to attend the convention.
The ICPA was a member of the now defunct International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) based in Geneva, Switzerland. It was also a member of the South Asian Catholic Press Association, affiliated to UCIP, composed of representatives of the National Catholic Press Associations of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.