Dealing with media: Arun Jaitley briefs his BJP ministers

New Delhi(PTI): Union Minister Arun Jaitley gives his ministerial tips on how to share information through media

Arun Jaitley said that the bureaucracy had a vital role to play in ensuring that authentic information is disseminated
Stressing the importance of government’s connect with public through media, Union minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said ministers, even those unfamiliar with the art of dealing with press, have to take lead and along with bureaucrats ensure that authentic information reaches people.

“Everybody amongst the ministerial team may not be to the same level familiar with the art of dealing with the media. Slowly everybody has to be nudged, because we live through the media, we communicate through the media,” the Information and Broadcasting Minister said. He expressed these views at a special workshop organised by his ministry to encourage bureaucrats to share information about government schemes more openly and effectively with the people.

“Your job is not propaganda, you are not trained for propaganda. The discipline of a civil servant is not to indulge in propaganda. In my field we can do it, you can’t. Therefore your real job is that government centric information has to be put out,” Jaitley told the officials. He also stressed that in communicating the message and performance of the government, the political leaders have to play the leading role.

“If some of them get into the shell, then they are wasting an opportunity with no cost and of great importance. So everybody has to be nudged and persuaded to really become the face,” he said.

Underscoring that political leaders have to lead from the front, Jaitley said that the bureaucracy too had a vital role to play in ensuring that authentic information is disseminated. He said that it is difficult to expect civil servants to become the “face” as there are legitimate restraints but added that they could still play a key role in giving information about work done by the government.

He said that the information provided by civil servants may not find place in a prime time debates but it would definitely reach millions of people through various media platforms.

The workshop had been organised by the Press Information Bureau to ensure better synergy between senior officials in ministries, PS to ministers and PIB officials to improve the communication flow of the government.

Jaitley, who also holds charge of the Finance Ministry, told senior bureaucrats said that if accurate information about the work done by the government reaches the people, “there would be no need for propaganda as the message would propagate itself”.

Encouraging the civil servants to be more open with the information, he said that we live in an “open society” where not much remains hidden. As he advised civil servants to be more liberal in sharing information, the minister also told senior officials that the contemporary media is interested in not just reporting decisions but also the process behind them. He said this creates an element of a problem as senior officers express their honest opinion freely because of which there are bound to be contrarian views.

The media, he said, could be more interested in the “alleged controversy” in the decision making. He said there will be cases where people will have alternate views and advised bureaucrats that one has to be careful that even contrarian views are expressed as part of honest decision making process of the government.

“So therefore the use of language, the restraint we exercise in that. Even when there is a contrarian view, it should not be bombshell creating view. It should be a logical possible view,” he said. He said while there are advantages of living in an open society, “an honest expression of opinion is one such area which can create issues and then embarrass the civil servant itself” which is one reality which one should be conscious about.

The minister, however, categorically emphasised that officers should express themselves honestly since they are trained to do that. “Therefore you must give the best input into the final decision making,” Jaitley said.

The I&B ministry held the day-long workshop at a time when there has been a perception that there has been a clamp up by the government on information and most of the communication is one way. Jaitley added that the advent of 24X7 news channels and now the social media have completely altered the media landscape. He said that camera changed news as from mere reporting, 24X7 news began to set the agenda to which governments and institutions would respond.

“Suddenly we realised we were increasingly becoming a society whose agenda was being pushed by the media,” Jaitley said. He said that if there was a headline whether true or false, a state assembly could be disrupted or a news report could become a PIL. He said if a negative news report appeared against a minister or a ministry, at least three quarters of the next day would be spend in firefighting it, he said.

“I only hope that it was a transient stage,” Jaitley said adding that the future now does not even belong to TV as the reach of digital media is massive with little cost.

Jaitley recounted his own experiences of writing a blog in the run up to the recent Lok Sabha elections and how it gained a huge readership in a short span of time to demonstrate how social media can be used effectively.

Earlier speaking at the workshop, Minister of State in I&B ministry Rajyavardhan Rathore also emphasised on the importance of communication. I&B secretary Bimal Julka said that with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself leading from the front, the ministry was working hard in disseminating information through social media. PIB Director General Frank Noronha said that the present workshop was the first of its kind.

Posted by on February 2, 2015. Filed under Nation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.