oppn parties The Media in India is Largely Free, But is it Largely Fair?

News Snippets

  • Supreme Court warns Rahul Gandhi to be more careful in future but drops contempt proceedings in the "chor" case
  • In a flip-flop, Vodafone CEO says sorry to the government, sys no plan to exit India
  • Sabarimala case referred to a larger bench as the court says several contentious issues need deeper examination
  • 16 killed as the vehicle they were traveling in plunged into a deep gorge near Jammu
  • Vodafone CEO seeks government relief, saying India operations on the verge of collapse
  • Three teenagers killed in a major accident in Kolkata's New Town area when their Honda City rammed into a road divider and a Metro pillar. The car was mangled
  • Vishwa Hindu Parishad not to publicly 'celebrate' Babri Masjid demolition day this year, all events will be closed door
  • JNU students march against the steep hike in fees, keep HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal stuck at the venue of the convocation
  • USFDA says Cytotron, an anti-cancer kit developed by Bengaluru based Rajah Vijay Kumar, is a "breakthrough device" for treating liver, pancreatic and breast cancers
  • Car sales show a minuscule uptrend after declining continuously for 11 months
  • Industrial output contracts by 4.3% in September, the worst decline in 8 years
  • Centre defends abrogation of Article 370 in the Supreme Court, says the power under it was used by the President six times previously
  • Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar admitted to hospital with lung infection, put on ventilator
  • Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant quits as Union Minister
  • National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met the leaders of both Hindus and Muslims in Delhi on Sunday to ensure peace and harmony is maintained after the Ayodhya verdict
Supreme Court dismisses plea for review in Rafale case, says no need for roving inquiry, maintains clean chit to government
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The Media in India is Largely Free, But is it Largely Fair?

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Is there a need to regulate content of the broadcast media? Does it not amount to pre-censorship if the government or any regulatory body is made to vet all content to be broadcast? Does this not infringe upon the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 19(1)(a)?

Led by Common Cause, a slew of petitions were pending in the Supreme Court demanding that the government regulate the content being broadcast in the media. Advocate Prashant Bhushan made a strong plea for a regulator, saying that self-regulation has not worked in India. He also said that the I & B ministry had failed to protect the interests and basic rights of the audience.

The Court was not impressed with his arguments. It took the stand that such a direction would amount to pre-censorship and would violate Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution. This interpretation of Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution is in line with earlier judgments. As far back as 1950, in the case Brij Bhusan and Anr vs State of Delhi, the apex court had categorically stated that “The imposition of pre-censorship on a journal is a restriction on the liberty of the press which is an essential part of the right to freedom of speech and expression declared by art. 19(1)(a).”

However, the Bench noted that the government is required to frame the statutory mechanism for redressal of complaints against contents of private TV channels and radio stations. It said that rules under Section 22 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act should be framed so that a definite regime is in place with regard to the time limit for filing and deciding complaints and filing of appeals by the aggrieved parties, among other things.

Otherwise too, apart from some cases of preventive custody, most crimes are actionable only when they have taken place and a complaint has been registered. News broadcast cannot be any different. It cannot be said on pre-censorship that any news cannot be published as it has the potential of creating trouble. Once an offending news or opinion is broadcast, there exists a mechanism by which the aggrieved party can get redress. Complaints can be lodged with the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council or the Press Council. The government has no role to play in this and should desist from taking up the mantle.

In these difficult times when one is either a bhakt or a presstitude, it is all the more necessary that the media is allowed to maintain its independence. Criticism of government is just a matter of difference of opinion and not opposition. The media must always maintain fairness in its views. However, it is not for the government to throttle independence of the media by trying to put pressure on those who it sees are regularly opposing its policies. A free and fair media is a pillar of strength to a democratic society. But in these difficult times, the media also needs to introspect and see whether it is performing its duties in an objective manner. The media in India is largely free but it is debatable whether it is also largely fair.