News or scandal: Media’s responsibility

Does the media make a scandal?

One of the most consistent discussions in the past few months has been the regulation of media. Whether it is misreporting a helping hand as sexual assault or holding a debate about a celebrity’s love life, media is now nothing less than a prime time soap opera. It is this behavior that has raised the question of media ethics and its regulation, especially external regulation.

But the problem arises with the fact that media is already regulated by external sources, like the Press Council of India as well as the judiciary. The PCI regulates ethics while the latter enforces the law. As far as ethics are concerned, they are like a moral code, the line that needs to be drawn in journalism. However, breaking ethics does not invite any legal repercussions.

Another term that keeps cropping up in between media and ethics is ‘informational activism.’ This is actually a conflict between right to information and the right to privacy. The conflict actually came to light during the leak of the Radia tapes when Ratan Tata filed a petition stating that making his conversations public was actually an attack on the right to privacy. However, in State of Uttar Pradesh vs Raj Narian, it was held by the Supreme Court that Article 19(1)a, apart from guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression also guarantees the right to receive information on matters that concern the public.

The basis of a free and neutral press is related to free thinking, imagination and deliberation. The question that arises is where do we draw the line on this imagination? Without fact checking, how do media channels turn news into scandal? Simple: by letting their imagination run without any tethers.

In this sense, mass media laws become a tethering force. The first ever media regulation was imposed in the form of Press Act, 1835 and was formulated by Lord Wellesley. This was followed by the Press and Registration of Book Act in 1867, which continues till date.

If we talk about a significant event in the history of media regulations, then 26thJanuary, 1950, the day of the constitution wins it hands down. This is because, the constitution promulgated ‘Freedom of Press’, which would become very important in the years to come. However, at the same time, this freedom is not absolute, for it lays down certain limitations under Article 19(2) in the interests of the public.

Article 19(2) is what the media needs to keep in mind right now if it wants to be something more than a factory that brews hashtags on prime time shows.

Another problem that seems to be affecting media is the perpetuation of fake news. Without evidence, any incident becomes news, which is then pointed out as fake news. But by that time, the fake news already becomes a scandal and no matter what one says, there cannot be smoke without fire. A major, so called independent news channel is now under fire for its reporting of fake news, with Photoshopped pictures and apparent ‘exclusive reporting’.

What the media is supposed to do is keep the citizens informed through its reporting, not make up the reports. That is where the regulations come into play, to stop media houses from turning into house of scandals.

To know more about these regulations, please visit our website.

Originally published at www.abriselegal.com.

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Yes, we’re lawyers. No, we aren’t stereotypical lawyers. Find us at www.abriselegal.com and follow us on www.instagram.com/abriselegal/

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