To whom does the right of free speech expressed from radio really belong?
The community radio network is expanding and is emerging as an important avenue for the free flow of information and expression of plurality of views. Radio is a budding medium with a lot of potential for empowerment of the community, recreation and also spreading knowledge..
Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley observed that it is a ‘myth’ that airways was the monopoly of the state which has been broken now. He was addressing the '5th National Community Radio Sammelan', an annual event organised by the Information and Broadcasting ministry since 2011.
He said that “It is an idea that should expand because as a platform of communication, community radio forms a part of tripartite stakeholder partnership - the broadcaster, the person disseminating the information and the listener who is keen for information, knowledge and dissemination of facts…..And there can’t be a better idea than community radio for full and effective implementation of that.”
He added that “Over two decades ago, the state had the misconceived notion that airways is the monopoly of the state. That myth itself was broken. I have nostalgic memory of how this was broken, having been twice in the ministry of Information and Broadcasting…… Before that I was privy in my position as a lawyer to shake that view the state had a monopoly. The right belongs to people. That law came later and today it belongs to people. All of you are expressing that idea and I am glad that the expansion of that idea is taking place fast.”
I and B Secretary Vimal Julka said that Community radio is one of the best tools to empower rural communities that seldom find voice in mainstream media. He referred to a recent ruling of the Supreme Court which had advocated that airwaves be declared a public property and used for promoting public good and ventilating plurality of views, opinions and ideas. He added that the ministry of I & B proposed to go online to simplify the procedure.
Awards were given away by Jaitely and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore to the community radio stations in different categories and a compendium containing inspiring stories of community radios from all over the country was released on the occasion.
The government had so far issued 409 permissions to set up community radio stations in India, out of which 179 stations have already become operational while the others were in the pipeline. The government intends to have 600 community radio stations by the end of 12th plan. With the growing importance of radio, the three-day workshop at Vigyan Bhavan which brings together operators, policy makers, UN agencies and other stakeholders for exchange of ideas and cross learning may aid in setting the agenda for discourse on development at the local level.
Jaitley’s statement that "The right to free speech does not belong to a broadcaster alone but also to the listener as he has a right to information and facts," was hailed by everyone. Readers may be reminded that Shri Arun Jaitley is one of the earliest users of the RTI Act, 2005. To end the article, it would be apt to quote from a decision of this Commission in Arun Jaitley vs. CBI Decision No. 157/IC(A)/2006 in file No. CIC/MA/A/2006/00230 decided on 1.8.06, in which this CIC held as follows:
15. In a parliamentary system of our democratic governance, a Member of Parliament enjoys considerable freedom to seek relevant information on the floor of the Parliament, which an ordinary citizen may envy. The fact that the appellant, a Member of Parliament (RS) and a former Minister has sought access to the public records surely adds to the credence of the successful implementation of RTI Act. The exercise of right to seek information and participation by the distinguished members of society, like MPs and ex-Ministers, as information seekers, are indeed a happy augury for strengthening the information regime that has now been set up for ensuring free flow of information, which even the common man may use to his advantage.