Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni has made two announcements, her 100 days' agenda of sorts. Her one announcement is that "the government does not have any intention of putting in place any regulatory body to monitor the media." The other is that she was personally in favour of raising Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the press to 49 percent from the present limit of 26 percent. Both announcements show that Ambika Soni has not yet adjusted herself to the environment of free press. She is still living in the fallout of the campaign of Incredible India where reality was at a discount because of the web of dreams her tourism ministry had woven. The media, whatever its deficiencies, deals with stark realities and reflects them. Ambika Soni should get out of the stupor of muddled thinking. Does she realise the doubt she has created about the Manmohan Singh government she represents by observing that it has no intention to monitor the media? Freedom of the press is not a bonanza by the government to give or not. The constitution guarantees it. The press has fought many battles to preserve it. I dare her to put the regulatory body. She does not realise the fight the press can put up to defeat her designs. She should remember that only free information evokes free response in a democratic society. PM Rajiv Gandhi threw the gauntlet before the press when he announced the Anti-Defamation Bill. The press picked it up. He had to withdraw. Unfortunately, Ambika Soni was part of the Sanjay Gandhi brigade which under the tutelage of Mrs Indira Gandhi gagged the press during the emergency (1975-77). Such a disaster was their rule that Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi and the Congress Party were routed in the Lok Sabha elections held in 1977. For Ambika Soni's benefit, I shall quote what Jawaharlal Nehru said: "I have no doubt that even if the government dislikes the liberties taken by the press and considers them dangerous, it is wrong to interfere with the freedom of the press. By imposing restrictions you do not change anything. You merely suppress the manifestation of certain things, thereby causing the idea and the thought underlying them to spread further. Therefore, I would have a completely free press with all the danger involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or a regulated press." I know that press freedom is a matter of faith with PM Manmohan Singh. I cannot imagine him becoming a party to the regulatory authority which, in any case, has no place in a democratic structure. The press is one of the pillars on which our system rests. He should tick off ministers like Ambika Soni, heading a sensitive portfolio like Information and Broadcasting, and instruct her not to speak on subjects that are beyond her depth. On the FDI, I recall Manmohan Singh assuring the agitated press that government would never go beyond the ceiling of 26 percent in the print media.. Press is not an industry, however mauled in shape it is today because of some owners and the fly-by-night editors. The press is a profession which has to stay independent to sustain faith in the words that the paper prints. Even the 26 percent FDI was wrong. We have the best of machinery and all other apparatus for the best of printing. If need be, we can import more equipment from abroad. Our journalists are inferior to none in the world. Why should we have foreign equity in the first instance? When I was the Rajya Sabha member, we had the parliamentary standing committee to pass a unanimous resolution under the chairmanship of Somnath Chatterjee against the entry of FDI in the press. The government still went ahead because of the pressure within the Congress Party that continued to have fancy ideas about foreign investment. The plea given by Ambika Soni for increasing the FDI share is that the small and medium newspapers would benefit. She labours under some misunderstanding about the FDI. Foreign newspapers or media houses invest because they see the prospects of profit. Small and medium newspapers are trying hard to be viable. How can they attract FDI? Even if a few can manage to attract capital, the 49 percent equity will be too big a chunk with the foreigners to resist pressure. This is certainly not in the country's interest, the Ambika Soni swan song. In the meanwhile, some of us have appealed to the Press Council of India to appoint a committee to look into the corruption which the media indulged during the last Lok Sabha elections. The Press Council, I believe, is appointing a committee to go into the allegations. The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist