Journalists and former lawmakers discuss the ways in which a healthy conflict is needed between the media and government.

“Is it ethical for the journalists to represent the government in power?” was the question posed by Madhu Trehan at the fifth session of The Media Rumble, The Relationship between Media & Government. This was addressed to former Congress MP Kapil Sibal, diplomat and former MP, Pavan Varma, Piyush Goyal, Power minister and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta.

Dasgupta responded with “I have views”, to much laughter. The discussion ranged from the consumption of news, and what the role of journalism was in relation to holding the government accountable.

Trehan also pointed out that there was an increasing trend in debate show formats as “People want to read what they already agree with and not to learning something new”. Varma said that “The relationship between government and media is of cooperation and adversity, with all governments trying to influence the media to project them better.” Pausing for laughter, he quipped, “I’d applaud the BJP for coopting the media far more successfully than the Congress ever could.”

Sibal argued that the fundamental problem with journalism was that most media houses were owned by big businesses, and these same businesses depend on the government to “get their work done”. A point tackled by an earlier panel on investing in media. Dasgupta asked what function journalism served—“to fawn over the government or launch a crusade against it?”

On the matter on reporting from conflict zones, the panel debated if it was the government’s responsibility to issue guidelines on how to report from conflict affected areas and if journalists should be licensed, the way lawyers and doctors are.