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

News Snippets

  • Crude prices fall sharply as Saudi Arabia assures normal production in a few weeks. Prices fall by 5.4% to $65.30 per barrel
  • Sensex tumbles 700 points over fears that rising crude prices will deal a body blow to the tottering Indian economy
  • As Rajeev Kumar fails to appear before the CBI despite several notices, the agency forms a special team to locate and apprehend him
  • S Jaishankar says Pakistan is not a normal neighbour and its behaviour is a "set of aberrations"
  • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar says PoK in Indian territory and the country hopes to have physical jurisdiction over it one day
  • Barasat Sessions court near Kolkata rejects Rajeev Kumar anticipatory bail application citing lack of jurisdiction as the reason
  • PM Modi celebrates his birthday with Narmada aarti and later has lunch with his mother.
  • All 6 Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs merge with the Congress in Rajasthan
  • Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to meet PM Modi on Wednesday, state issues on the agenda
  • Pakistan to open Kartarpur corridor on Nov 9
  • Rajeev Kumar, ex-police commissioner of Kolkata and wanted for questioning in the Sarada scam does not appear before the CBI despite the state administration requesting him to do so
  • Supreme Court asks the Centre to restore normalcy in J&K but keeping national interest in mind
  • As Trump accepts the invitation to attend a programme in Houston with PM Modi, India rushes to settle trade issues with US
  • After drone attack on Aramco's Suadi Arabia facility, oil prices jump 19% in intra-day trading causing worries for India
  • Imran Khan raises nuclear war bogey again, says if Pakistan loses a conventional war, it might fight till the end with its nuclear arsenal
Sunni Wakf Board and Nirvani Akhara write to the Supreme Court for a negotiated settlement to the Ayodhya dispute
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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.