President Pranab Mukherjee, on 16 November, reminded the literary icons and artists who are retuning their awards in protest against growing intolerance, that they should not let their emotions overrun reason and that disagreement must be expressed through 'debate and discussion'.
President Mukherjee made his address after inaugurating the National Press Day celebrations organized by the Press Council of India. He also gave away National Awards for excellence in journalism on the occasion.
Speaking at the function, the President said prestigious awards are a public recognition, of talent, merit and hard work, by peers and leaders in the profession.
"Such awards should be cherished and valued by those who receive them. Sensitive minds sometimes get disturbed by some incidents in society. Emotions should not overrun reason and disagreement should be expressed through debate and discussion. We must, as proud Indians, have confidence in the idea of India and the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution. India has always been able to self-correct whenever such a need has arisen," President Mukherjee said.
He asserted that the media must act as a 'watchdog of public interest' giving voice to the marginalized and that journalists must bring public notice to the array of ills and depravations in the nation.
"The power of the media should be used to reset our moral compass and promote liberalism, humanism and decency in public life. While opinion is free, facts should be sacred. Caution should be exercised in passing judgements, especially on matters where the due process of law is yet to be completed," the President said.
"We must never forget that careers and reputations take years to build but only minutes to demolish. He said the media fraternity of India are not only providers of news, but also educators who empower our citizens and strengthen the democratic framework of our country," he added.
Referring to the main theme of this year's National Press Day discussion, the President said cartoons and caricatures are good stress busters, for the viewing public as well as those featured in them.
"The cartoonist captures the mood of the time and his art lies in being able to lampoon without hurting, caricature without distorting and to say with a few strokes of the brush what lengthy articles fail to express. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister used to repeatedly tell V. Shankar, the doyen of Indian Cartoonists, "Don't spare me, Shankar". He would often drive down to Shankar's house for a cup of coffee and a chat about the subject of the cartoon," he said.
In a message to the nation, the President reminded that 'open mindedness and appreciation of genuine criticism' is one of the lovable traditions of India, which must be preserved and strengthened.