RIGHTS OF MEDIA IN INDIA By Aastha Ananya

“The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away.” –Thomas Jefferson

In this article, we will focus on the tension and conflict that exists between the freedom of expression and the right to privacy in particular attention to media in India. As we all know that Freedom of Press is an important part of the freedom of expression. If we look into the insights of Indian Society, the right to privacy has become a fundamental human right implicitly lying under the right to life and personal liberty.

The right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy can be captioned as the two sides of the same coin. This very image leads us to ponder upon whether freedom of media in India is a vituperate to stifle opponents or act as a shield for the public. The roots of the right of privacy are not nascent but can be traced back from the basic, inherent and inalienable natural rights. In India, this right may not be explicitly found in the Constitution but is interpreted by the Supreme Court to be implied in the Article 21 (Right to Life) as reiterated in a plethora of cases.[1]

Now, if we talk of media Indian media scenario, the platforms enjoy a great deal of freedom. The privilege to express opinions uninhibitedly is basic in a majority rules system. Scholarly people have since a long time ago championed it as an entryway to different freedoms, setting that the abridgment of free expression unavoidably prompts to confinements on different rights, for example, the privilege to be educated. This privilege, be that as it may, is befuddled and compared with the need to neglect the media as a business (falling under Article 19(1) (g)), which is on a very basic level imperfect. The privileges of a native and the privileges of a media entrepreneur fall under distinctive wicker container and shapes, and can’t be viewed as the same.

Freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of circulation, to the extent that the ability to propagate one’s expression is inherent in that freedom.[2] However, a recipient of news and a publisher of news belong to fundamentally different interest groups. This is precisely why expressing an opinion per se and the business of publishing/circulating news have been so clearly distinguished by our lawmakers. Notwithstanding, the Indian press appreciates two-overlap insurance, specifically the right to speak freely and expression ensured under Article 19(1) (a) and the flexibility to take part in any calling, occupation, exchange, industry or business, ensured under Article 19(1) (g). Issues emerge when Article 19(1) (a) and (g) are perused to be one and the same and even the oversight and limitations in the enthusiasm of the ‘overall population’ pondered under Article 19(6) are disregarded in view of this perplexity.

Restrictions on the freedom of media

  • Some restrictions are compulsory as the rights of individuals and the interests of the entire society must not be allowed to overrun by press rights. The entities that are engaged in the business of media and news have emerged as a source of information, which helps people cultivate opinions on any topic be it political, economic or social situation prevailing in the country. The influence of traditional print media is still retained with television being widely popular. But, if we talk about the public opinion, precisely of the youth, it can be gauged through the so-called ‘new media’ i.e. social networking platforms. In this way, the media continues its role as a kind of non-formal educator. It acts as a helping hand to citizens to make judgments, often by presenting views which are contrary to those of the government.[3]

 

  • Contempt of Court – The press and the judiciary share a complex relationship with one another. On one hand, justice must be seen to be done whereas on the other the press is crucial in providing the details of proceedings and ensuring that justice is administered. Here, lies the conflict as the same coverage, may, however, interfere with the administration of justice or say influence the judges. Hence, we can say that contempt of court does form one of the restrictions on Article 19(1) (g) and reasonable means of countering it can be found in the Constitution itself.[4] But again, the courts have shown themselves to be aware of the balance required. They have ruled that limits of decency and fairness[5] must apply so that contempt law is not used to muzzle free discussion.

 

  • Defamation with both civil and criminal aspects is another offence which the media frequently encounters along with the laws protecting reputation.

Recommended read: Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill

 

All in all, the purpose lies in the interest to understand whether the media is functioning within the framework outlined by the Constitution on entitlement freedom of speech and expression or not? Should there exist checks on media? whether the norms to regulate media is followed? Finally, to analyze the limitation on people’s right to know and how much water it holds in the Constitutional arrangement.

While any confinements of free discourse and expression must be sensible, there is no arrangement admonishing the person to be sensible in the practice of their rights. It could be contended, truth be told, that, “If freedom implies anything by any means, it implies the privilege to tell individuals what they would prefer not to listen.” Nevertheless, the privilege to free discourse and expression does not exist in a vacuum and should be adjusted with different rights.

It is in keeping up this just possibility of obligation as a feature of a right becomes possibly the most important factor. Consequently, the pressure between the opportunity of expression and intercession by powers remains. As noted over, the sensibility of confinements on the right to speak freely is chosen a case by case premise. The vaunted position of the media does not come without a share of responsibility. Hence, the restrictions on the business of media under Article 19(6) are important for a smooth and effective protections of the common citizens under Article 19(1) (a).

 

[1] Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1963) 2 SCC 148; Gobind v. State of MP (1975) 2 SCC 148; R. Rajgopan v. State of Tamilnadu (1994) 6 SCC 632.

[2] Romesh Thapar v State of Madras [1950] SCR 594.

[3] Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd v Union of India [1985] SCR (2) 287.

[4] Articles 129 and 215 allow the Supreme and High Courts respectively to punish for contempt of court.

[5] See Indirect Tax Practitioners Assn v RK Jain [2010] “Ordinarily, the Court would not use the power to punish for contempt for curbing the right of freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. Only when the criticism of judicial institutions transgresses all limits of decency and fairness or there is a total lack of objectivity or there is a deliberate attempt to denigrate the institution then the Court would use this power;”

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