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National Press Day: AI can't replace news editors with experience: Union Minister

By TIOL News Service

NEW DELHI, NOV 17, 2023: UNION Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, yesterday extended his warm wishes to the media fraternity on the occasion of National Press Day. Speaking at an event organized by Press Council of India on the theme of Media in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, the Minister said that today was a day of reaffirmation of our collective commitment to responsible journalism.  He said that as Bharat was poised to become the third largest economy in just a few years from now, he looked forward to the media playing an increasingly constructive role in not only in highlighting the story of transforming India, but also the hopes, aspirations of a billion voices from across various regions and sectors.

Highlighting the significance of the day Thakur said that National Press Day honors the tireless commitment of journalists dedicated to strengthening our democracy.

Speaking on the theme of the event, the Minister said that "We stand at a crucial point in history, witnessing rapid global evolution driven by advancing technology. The digital age has ushered in a new era where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly used to produce news content. While AI undoubtedly adds a new dimension to news reporting, it is crucial to recognize its limitations." While appreciating the increasingly important role of artificial intelligence in the field of news gathering and news dissemination, the Minister also underlined that the nuances of years of experience, context and oversight that an Editor brings will always be a step ahead of the AI. He stressed that it is crucial to ensure that AI models do not adopt biases from their training data, thus compromising media integrity. Effectively addressing and mitigating these challenges is our collective responsibility, taking necessary precautions to uphold journalistic integrity and ensure the responsible use of AI in the media.

The Minister delved into the negative perception that is being attempted to be created by certain western entities and said that even as we celebrate the freedom of the press, we cannot turn a blind eye to those who seek to undermine the spirit of our nation. There are individuals and media outlets that consistently spread fake propaganda against Bharat, both domestically and internationally. It is our collective responsibility to challenge such narratives, expose the falsehoods, and ensure that truth prevails. He added that it was crucial to address the persistent misconceptions propagated by certain Western biases regarding the portrayal of Bharat and its media. The colonial hangover often skews perceptions, but we assert that our media landscape is dynamic, reflective, and stands on its own merit. India's media is a reflection of its cultural richness, and we must take pride in the contributions it makes to the global discourse. He stressed that Bharat boasts a vibrant and free press, providing a platform for diverse voices and opinions.

The Minister cautioned the media that has entered the era of artificial intelligence along with many other professions, and said that we live in a world where misinformation can be amplified with the click of a button. Our government encourages the media to adopt a discerning approach, avoiding the pitfalls of sensationalism and steering clear of narratives that may harm the fabric of our society. He stressed that the Indian media must safeguard the interests of our nation and avoid providing space to anti-India views that can threaten the unity and integrity we hold dear.

Also speaking on the occasion, Union Minister of State Dr L Murugan commended the role of Press Council of India in ensuring that press plays a role in nation service by ensuring that a free and responsible press adheres to norms of journalistic ethics and standards. He exhorted the media to continuously adapt to the changes happening both within and outside. The Minister cautioned against the transgression of AI in matters of copyright, creativity, originality and plagiarism. He further said that like every other technology, AI also requires ethical human oversight.

Earlier speaking on the occasion, Chief Guest, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar said that that fake news, deliberately fed wrong and mischievous information, political ambitions and preferences, tendency to play power brokers and monetary considerations have eroded the people's faith in the media today. He exclaimed that credibility is the biggest challenge that the media is facing today and it is surprising that this aspect is being blissfully ignored.

Speaking on the theme, the Vice President said that the advent of artificial intelligence has transformed the way we receive and consume news, information, and entertainment. AI has become an integral part of our daily lives. At the same time, it has arrived with its own set of challenges and ethical questions, such as the spread of misinformation, deep fakes, creation of echo chambers and micro targeting of information to influence the democratic process and create chaos and instability in the societies. Facing these challenges, the responsibilities of journalists and media professionals have expanded, requiring an even greater commitment to the principles of truth, accuracy, and accountability, he added.

However, Dhankhar stated that though AI has the potential to harm, we must acknowledge that this technology is here to stay and we must adapt to the changing landscape, employing the transformative potential of AI as a tool to improve our capabilities, while also safeguarding against its misuse. He added "It is paramount that journalists and media outlets uphold the highest standards of integrity. Fact-checking, source verification, and maintaining editorial independence are more important than ever. We must not allow AI to compromise the values that are the very foundation of a free and vibrant press". AI may be a powerful tool, but it is the human touch, the commitment to truth, and the unwavering dedication of journalists that will continue to make the media a force for good in our society, Dhankhar underlined.

G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant, speaking on the occasion said that media entities that view tech as an enhancement to human talent and not its substitute have been able to rejuvenate investigative and documentary journalism. He said that he foresees AI crafted audio and video pieces, immersing into narratives like never before transcending the barriers of storytelling. On the same note, he also said that it is essential to be aware of the harm that an unchecked AI usage in media might introduce into our democracy.  Curating personalized news with the aid of AI risks creating echo chambers in our society limiting our exposure to diverse perspectives.

The event was presided by Smt. Justice Rajana Prakash Desai, Chairperson, Press Council of India.


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