WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2021
The World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) is an annual celebration of press freedom, observed on 3rd May every year. The main celebration is organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The theme for WPFD 2021 is “Information as a Public Good”.
FREEDOM OF PRESS IN INDIA
Freedom of press is not expressly protected by Indian legal system but it is impliedly protected under article 19(1) (a) of the constitution, which states – “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”.
In 1950, the Supreme Court in Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras observed that freedom of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations.
In Brij Bhusan Vs the State of Delhi, 1950 case the Supreme Court upheld the liberty of the press and said that pre-censorship violates the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.
However, Freedom of press is also not absolute. It faces certain restrictions under Article 19(2), which are as follows-
Matters related to interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
India has been ranked 142nd out of 180 nations in the World Press Freedom Index, 2021, published by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.
Reports such as ‘Freedom in the World 2021 (Freedom House, US)’, ‘2020 Human Rights Report (US State Department)’, ‘Autocratisation Goes Viral (V-Dem Institute, Sweden)’ have all highlighted intimidation of journalists in India.
QUOTES RELATED TO FREEDOM OF PRESS
“The freedom of the human mind is recognized in the right to free speech and free press.” – Calvin Coolidge.
“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” – George Orwell.
“No prison is big enough to contain free speech.” – Mazen Darwish.
“Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forego.” – M.K. Gandhi
“We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech- because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.” – Barack Obama
KEY ISSUES AND CHALLENGES TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION
Public Order and National Security – Restrictions on freedom of expression in the name of public order and national security should be imposed only where there is a real risk of harm to a legitimate interest
Criminal Content Restrictions – Expression should not be criminalised unless it poses a clear risk of serious harm
Criminal Defamation – Criminal defamation laws should be abolished
Attacks on Media Workers – Those perpetrating attacks on journalists must be brought to justice
Informal Censorship – Public officials should refrain from taking measures to influence or pressure those publishing material
Reporting on Conflict Situations – The media should not be excluded from conflict situations and efforts should be made to ensure their safety
Economic Measures- Economic measures should not be used to control or interfere with editorial independence
Hate Speech – Public authorities should not use the media to promote intolerance or hatred between groups
Gender Equity – Equal access to and representation of women in the media should be promoted
Privacy – Privacy laws should not inhibit investigative reporting in the public interest
Sources – Journalists should not be required to reveal confidential sources. Protection of confidential sources is essential not only to maintain the free flow of information to journalists, and from them to the public, but also for the personal security of journalists. Journalists should never be required to reveal their sources unless this is necessary for a criminal investigation or the defence of a person accused of a criminal offence and they are ordered to do so by a court, after a full opportunity to present their case.
New Technologies – Regulation should not inhibit the power of new technologies to promote diversity and to enhance access to information
State Regulation of the Media – Media regulation should be independent of political interference and should not impose unnecessary restrictions on media freedom
Media Monopolies- States should take necessary measures to prevent excessive monopoly control over the media. Media monopolies can undermine the public’s right to receive information from a variety of different sources.
State-Funded Broadcasting – State-funded broadcasters should be fully independent of government, adequately funded and should promote diversity and pluralism
THERE ARE VARIOUS UNETHICAL MEDIA LAW PRACTICES IN OUR INDIAN JOURNALISM SECTOR AT
Paid News – It is one of the most serious challenges to media. It is fundamental ethical media to be truthful and fair since a vast number of people will eventually see it and shape their opinions based on it
Media Trial – A media trial is a trial similar to a court of law in which the media house declares an individual innocent or guilty before the court’s final judgment based on debates and discussions. Additionally, it results in the formation of beliefs in the minds of individuals, thus impacting the case’s meritocracy. The media trials were visible in the Jessica Lal murder case and the Sushant Singh Rajput drug case, among others.
Lack of Diversity in Reportage – There are 800 television channels in India, as well as 36,000 weekly magazine publications and thousands of web portals. On the surface, there is a dearth of variety in news coverage as a result of the ‘tyranny of distance’. A Handful Ownership of Media – Transparency in the inner workings of Indian media organisations is diminishing resulting in the jeopardization of the media’s reputation.