Media Rights: Battle for Press and Media Freedom

    World survived in tough days due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic. Many of the Nation’s economy blended in downfall and chances for a boost in economy is far from the reality due to recession in businesses and major youths of India lost jobs. Since the month of March, the government of India promulgated lockdown in the whole of India due to the Novel CoronaVirus Pandemic. A number of refugee and migration issues arose during this period. Migrated workers are wholly dependent on daily earnings. Due to the pandemic, they have lost their jobs. Media plays a key role in the accountability of the government towards citizens. Media has the right to publish, write and circulate any content, picture, videos for the citizens.   

     The media intends to show the reality behind controversial cases and  plays a key role in the relations of citizens and government. Media has been taking information from the government bodies and broadcasting information publicly. Media has the right to receive information from government bodies in the interest of citizens. Individual citizens as well as the Press of India have the right to receive information from government bodies. Indian democracy has the fourth essential element in the name of media to circulate good faith material and make awareness in society.   

    Media Rights: Freedom of Speech and Expression  

    Freedom of Speech and Expression articulates freedom of expression of own thoughts without any hesitation and obligation.[1] Freedom of speech and expression deals with any individual citizen as well as the Media and Press can write, publish and circulate their thoughts in the society.                                                                                                               Freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), Indian Constitution deals with Freedom of Press. Media plays a key role in the relations to citizens and government. Media has been taking information from government bodies and broadcasting information publicly. Media have the right to receive information from government bodies in the interest of citizens of India. [2] Individual citizens as well as the Press of India have the right to receive information from government bodies. Right to receive information from government bodies related to the status of project, Project Budget , and current situation of the project.  The study aims to analyze the problem and relation between “Trial by Media” and “Freedom of Speech and Expression”. Media Trial attempts to the in-camera proceeding but there are restrictions imposed on them, are they justified? Or such trial attempts contempt of Law established by court and harm to Independence of Judiciary. We accept that freedom of speech and expression correlates with media trial but it does not conduct fair trial and harm to the Judiciary’s independence. Therefore, balancing the freedom of speech and expression and media trial is like accepting the term reasonable restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Expression deals with Art. 19(2) of the constitution.

    • Right to Publish and Circulate

    The Right to free speech and expression to press have not only the right to publish only but the right to circulate is also included in this article of the Constitution of India. Many cases including Mahesh Thopar v. State of Madras[3] states that “the freedom of circulation is essential as freedom of publication. Media have the right to publish opinions and views without any hesitation”.

    The same principle held in the case Sakal Papers v. Union of India[4]  States where the supreme court of India held that “states cannot make laws which directly violate the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the constitution of India”

    • Right to Conduct Interviews: 

    The Right to conduct Interview is a limited right given to the press and can only be exercised if there is willing consent from the person being interviewed.      

    • Right to Report Court Proceedings

    Journalists have the right to report court proceedings in court and the right to publish court proceedings in news as witnesses and heard in court. Court also has the right to not publish trial proceedings in high profile cases and in account of in-Camera Proceedings. 

    The Supreme Court in Sahara Real Estate v. SEBI [5] held that “Courts also have the power to pass orders to postpone the reportage of case proceedings by the press for a limited duration in the interest of justice”.

     

    1. Right to Advertise: The Freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) of the constitution of India includes Right to Freedom of Press. The Supreme Court in Hindustan Times v. State of UP[6], held that In this case held that “advertising is essential for business. Advertising leads to income  therefore advertising is essential for Income of newspaper Agency”

    Further, the Supreme Court, in Sakal Papers v. Union of India[7]  stated that “the Misleading advertisements is an Abuse of the freedom of Publication”.           

    https://legalreadings.com/access-to-internet-should-be-fundamental-right/                                          

    Battle for Press and Media Freedom                                       

    Today in India, Media and Press Freedom arises as a crucial issue in Indian Society. Press which has the power to hold the Government, public authorities and other parts of the State – in other words, those who exercise power over citizens. Media trial plays the role as a guardian against corruption, incompetence, waste, hypocrisy and greed.

    Media freedom matters because it is the engine of economic growth and renewal and also an essential part of economic development. Media Freedom Matters in every democratic country for three Reasons: 

    1. Firstly, Press has the power to hold the government, public authorities and other parts of the state. In other words, those who exercise power over citizens which play a role as watchdog and protection to public interest.
    2.  Secondly, the media and press can conduct long term investigations, unhindered for the most part by the prior restraint of proceedings.
    3. Thirdly, any state where there are free and fair elections holds that the free press has the power to play a role in transmitting information to voters independently in political interest.                                               

     The Law Commission of India – 200th Report  

    The Seventieth Law Commission Recommends in its 200th Report On “Freedom of Press Vs. Fair Media Trial” some crucial recommendations regarding issues faced by media trial. According to the Indian legal system, an accused is not said to be guilty till the convictions on him are proved by law established by court.

    It may happen at stage when bail is granted, refused or during the trial. Unlike the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the Acts of 1926 and 1927 did not define “civil” or “criminal” contempt until 1971. The commission said this is criminal contempt of court. If the provisions of Contempt of court Act imposed restrictions on freedom of speech, then such restrictions would be valid.

    But the right to fair trial has not explicitly been made a fundamental right. More than a legal right, it is a basic principle of natural justice that everyone gets a fair trial and an opportunity to defend oneself. Law Commission of India concludes on the 200th Report.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Anand Chintamani vs. State of Maharashtra         

    In this case[8], a book entitled “Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy” starring the play in private audience is restricted by court because it violates restrictions of freedom of speech and expression. Every copy, including the manuscript, or any other form of the play in Marathi and the translation thereof in Gujarati or any other languages shall be forfeited to the Government. 

    Express Newspaper Private Limited vs. Union of India 

    The Newspaper Publication Company built an office plot in place of the government lease. According to Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 it states that government authority cannot allow any private firm/company to establish his working office in the land owned by the government. In this case[9]  it concludes that reasonable restriction on freedom of press cannot curtail media’s freedom and its rights. 

    Conclusion                                                                                                                   

    Media and Press Freedom are essential in any democratic country for in the view of protection of democracy. Media plays a crucial role in protection of democracy and indicator towards impartiality of Government. Media have the right to receive information from government bodies and take accounts of public administration as well as take information relating to public project budgets and Implementation status of projects in interest of society.

    Most of the cases the media and press conduct are trials and proceedings of high profile cases. The Media Plays Role of Watchdog on Accountability of Government and always attempts to evaluate government mechanisms. Media plays a crucial role in strengthening democracy and working as a middleman between government and Citizens. Thus, Freedom of Press and Media essential for society interest. Media is one of the fourth pillars of democracy, We citizens of India abide to protect Interests of Media and Press.                                                                                                                                                              

    REFERENCES                                                                                                                                                                               1) Written by Lord Black of Brentwood – Topic -Media and Law – www.legalserviceindia.com – Last Visited on 30/01/2021

    2) Malviya Rajkumar – What are Rights of Press in India? –  Nyaya – www.medium.in – Last Visited on 26/11/2020

    3) 1950 SC 304.

    4) AIR 1962 SC 305.

    5) 10 SC 2012.

    6) Writ Petition (Civil) 328 of 1992.

    7) Supra note 4.

    8) 2001 CR.LJ. 2203.

    9) 1986 AIR  872.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 BY MANISH VINOD KHADAKBAN | YASHWANTRAO CHAVAN LAW COLLEGE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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