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

News Snippets

  • US House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee chief, Elliot Engel, says "Chinese aggression" against India in Ladakh shows China is "willing to bully its neighbours"
  • Cyclone Nisagra expected to hit Mumbai with wind speeds of 100 kmph. The city placed on red alert
  • Monsoon hits Kerala, IMD says northern India too will get "good" rain
  • Moody's downgrades India's sovereign rating to Baa3, bringing it at par with other rating firms.
  • If the middle seat is used on flights, the passenger must be given a wrap-around cover in addition to mask and face shield, says the DGCA
  • The Union Cabinet approves many schemes for farmers, MSMEs and street vendors that were announced in the Covid-19 economic package
  • List of banned foreign items at Army canteens withdrawn after it was found that several Indian firms were also on the list
  • India and China seem to be headed for a longer stand-off at the border as the troops of both sides bring in heavy weaponry
  • The Centre has asked ISPs to block WeTransfer, which is now not available in India
  • Major shake-up in West Bengal BJP, those who switched to the party from the TMC given important posts
  • With 7573 new cases on Monday, India's total Covid-19 cases inch towards the 2-lakh mark
  • MSP of Kharif crops raised to increase the income of farmers
  • In a setback for aviation firms, jet fuel price has been increased by 48 percent
  • Terrorists strike on the outskirts of Srinagar, kill 2 BSF men
  • Alluding to the border dispute with India, Nepal PM says "Indian virus" is more dangerous than the Chinese or Italian virus
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The Media in India is Largely Free, But is it Largely Fair?

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2017-01-19 23:20:46

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.