Mainstream media needs to focus on Rights issues: NHRC member

New Delhi: The mainstream media needs to focus more on rights issues of vulnerable sections of society and not just of the urban elite and middle classes, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member S C Sinha said on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, in recent times, one has seen that the mainstream media often fails to reflect some of the pressing challenges that confront large sections of the society including Dalits, Adivasis, women, rural poor, urban poor and workers in the unorganised sector.

“It appears that only human rights violations committed by the state and its agencies against the urban elite and middle classes are now considered worthy of media space,” Sinha said at a workshop here on ‘Media and Human Rights: Issues and Challenges’ organised by NHRC in collaboration with Indian Law Institute (ILI).

He, however, lauded the role of the vernacular media for continuing to highlight important human rights issues from the “forgotten” regions of the country.

Sinha further said the role of media in highlighting the acts of commission, omission, abetment and negligence of the state and its agencies, which result in rights violations, is indispensable to the work of the Commission.

Describing journalists and other associated with media as human rights defenders, he said the attacks on them by vested interests are condemnable for not only do they weaken the freedom of the media but also democratic processes.

In order to become genuine protectors of human rights, the media must steer clear of sensationalism and provocative journalism, Sinha said.

Describing media trials as very “anti-thesis” to the rule of law, he said these may lead to a gross miscarriage of justice, which is a matter of urgent concern and required to be pondered over by the media in earnest.

Earlier, addressing the participants, Dr Manoj Kumar Sinha, Director, ILI said the first case registered by the NHRC on the basis of a media report signifies the importance the media can play in the promotion and protection of human rights.

As for the general perception among the media about NHRC being a notice issuing or a recommendatory body, Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, Dy Director (M&C), NHRC said the Protection of Human Rights has given certain powers to the Commission which has to act within that jurisdiction.

“If the recommendations given by a highly-placed body like NHRC are not accepted, merely on the basis of the technicalities, that the Commission’s recommendations are not binding to implement, it is for the median to take up the matter further in public domain and generate a public debate for further awareness,” he said.

The participants included mediapersons, officers working for media communication in the Centre and state governments and law students.