I never received any formal education when it comes to the act of "presenting the news" or journalism, for that matter. The closest I ever came to this was through a wild whim, a satirical dare of sorts, born through sheer frustration thanks to an old friend (let’s call him Sid for this story). The next three paragraphs recite a scene from my undergrad days cramming computer engineering, while Sid relishes his bachelor's in communication.

The reason for my frustration was this call with Sid talking about this course that he attended as a part of his curriculum called 'film appreciation'. A course that, to this date, baffles my brain cells. Quite simply, because how, or rather who, is capable of grading someone over their appreciation of a film? Two hours of Sid nagging over how breathtaking his teacher looked and how chill his lecture was, while I kept thinking how ridiculous his studies were to me. And then, to top it off, he dared me to attempt the same.

After debating for another hour over countless movies and sitcoms that we both would approve of (else I would've grabbed sopranos by the wheel and darted for my room), we finally settled on this 2012 sitcom titled "The Newsroom" by Aaron Sorkin.

And lo and behold, that shaped me into who I am today. That one fateful encounter brought me to this path of storytelling and wanting to write and present the news. A dumb decision, might I add? Especially in our country (or any other country for that matter).

Journalism has never been a sought-after career trajectory in my family. In part, because my father graduated from the JNU (infamous in this context, and every other in my books). And partially because of my mother, for whom journalism has always rhymed with jail time. And that in itself is a big no-no. Since we as a family have spent a great part of our lives abroad and jail time drastically reduces eligibility for visas, any career prospect that can even remotely be associated with jail time was kept out of my syllabus for almost all my life. Maybe that is why I have always had this unknown fascination for journalism (and politics; thank god that boat never sailed).

You may ask, “Why does this idiot associate journalism with jail time?”

For that, we have to take a look at our laws. You see, up until quite recently, our rights as a journalist, a news producer, a reporter, or a news owner; all were still governed under the ‘Press and Registration of Books Act, of 1867’. A law passed much before our independence aimed in many forms solely to “cull our sense of oppression” and make the release of press publications and periodicals a gruesome affair, to say the least. A law passed close to 160 years ago.

Some of its prominent features included:

  • Legal grounds for imprisonment for the meagre act of simply presenting or commenting on a piece of news, that could be deemed inappropriate by any governing body (emphasis on any).
  • An unneeded complex system to get your periodical registered, which required approval from multiple parties and many more...

But all this is set to change. All thanks to the Modi government and the G20 summit. The reason behind this stems from the ‘Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023’ which, among other benefits, outright decriminalises the act of presenting or commenting on a piece of news, a segment that was subject to jail time just a few months from now.

What this means is that I can freely present and comment on a piece of news without facing criminal charges for doing so. This does not include defamation charges or any other criminal proceedings. But still, it is a huge leap forward in the right direction. A direction much needed ever since our independence from the 'British Raj' as we so commonly like to call it.

But why does this matter so much to me?

Because I have been working as a journalist for a greater part of my life without knowing the repercussions my actions could have had. Or the times I didn't realise why my editors wanted to fire me because I had voiced different views and opinions. Solely because I wasn't taught how voicing my views could land not only me, but the entire publication some serious jail time, simply because I was too naive and unaware of the laws that govern us.

There is a saying in our language "Jab tak talwar ki dhar sar par nahi mandrati, tab tak hakeekat samne nahi aati" (it is only when the sharp end of the blade hovers upon your head that you realise what reality truly is).

It was only after realizing that I could forever be on the mercy of facing criminal charges for anything I say or do in the name of presenting the news, that I realized how important this bill means for me. And the reason why I write this piece with such zeal is the fact that this bill has come into effect from March 1st, 2024, onwards. And yet, it hasn't truly been shown off the way it should be.

Another reason why I need to bring this piece of news out to the masses is because our country's general elections are set for this year. And there lies a good chance that our current government might get ousted. And despite all that happens, there is a good chance the general masses will remain unaware of this bill because it doesn't directly affect them. It only affects a mere 0.0001% of the country's population, who still consider journalism the noble profession to be in.

I know this has taken me over a thousand words to get this point across, a telltale sign that I can't call myself a true journalist. However, through my years of writing, I feel that personal experiences tend to take that extra step in getting a point across.

This post serves as a tribute to all the people in my country and the world around who still hold faith in journalism as the most important and noble profession. This post also serves as a token of appreciation to the Modi government, that to date strives to make India a better place to live in than yesterday. I’m not saying that I am a 'Modi Bhakt'. But I do strongly believe that the Modi government is the best bet my country has towards a better future. This, according to me, is the way of the future. And this is the way it should be.