Seema Nazareth Award: Fake news is a big problem, says Rudrangshu Mukherjee

Journalist Somesh Jha (left) receives the 20th Business Standard-Seema Nazareth Award for Excellence in Print Journalism from Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Chancellor, Ashoka University. Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
With instances of fake news drastically going up, and many of them leading to incidents of violence and even deaths, journalists need to remain sceptical of ‘facts’ made available to them by officials, and must continue to cross-check them, Chancellor of Ashoka University Rudrangshu Mukherjee said on Tuesday. 

“Fake news is proliferating in the air and especially the print media. It is the need of the hour for journalists to cross-check available facts and reports,” Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Chancellor of Ashoka University, said at a function organised to confer the Business Standard-Seema Nazareth Award for Excellence in Print Journalism 2018.

A seasoned academic teaching history, as well as a senior journalist, Mukherjee said the polarity between historians and journalists have become a culpable reality in today’s society, despite both being required to deal with facts. 

“Journalists nowadays don't deal with facts. Often as academics we are called upon to counter the deliberate misrepresentation of news that are being given to the public,” Mukherjee added. 
It is at this juncture that the study of social sciences, such as history, has become important to negate the targeted build-up of fake news, he said. 

“People are being forced everyday. People who can make a difference to how news can be presented to the public everyday, are being twisted to twist news. And that is the origin of fake news,” Mukherjee said.

Addressing young journalists, he cautioned that fake news would remain a significant challenge especially in an election year and asked them to doubt everything. 

Earlier in the evening, Mukherjee presented the Business Standard-Seema Nazareth Award to Business Standard Special Correspondent Somesh Jha.

The award, given every year to a journalist under the age of 30, carries a prize of Rs 50,000, a silver pen and a citation. Jha, who is based out of New Delhi, is the 20th recipient of the award, instituted by Business Standard and the Nazareth family in memory of Seema Nazareth, a young Business Standard journalist who died on March 19, 1999.

This year’s award marks the 20th anniversary of Nazareth's death. Speaking on the occasion, her father P A Nazareth said the detailed study of history held up many solutions to modern problems. Drawing a parallel with the rebellion of 1857, he argued the British painted the incident as a mere sepoy mutiny, while extensive research proves that it was the first coordinated fight for freedom.

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