DU SOL BA 3rd Year Mass Communication Notes Chapter 8 Mass Ethics and Press Law
Discuss the Press codes and Media Ethics
Press codes and Ethics Codes of ethics for journalists began to be formulated since the early. 1920s. Today, more than 60 countries around the world have drawn up and are enforcing such codes. Of course, they very in form and scope from one country or region to another. In some countries, the codes have been voluntarily drawn up and are imposed by professional bodies of journalists; In others, they are imposed by the governments in power. Several states enforce such codes which speak of such, high-minded principles as objectivity impartiality, truthfulness, and freedom of information.
The MacBride Report states that all journalists have responsibilities to their own convictions, but equally important are their responsibilities to the public. The Repofr spells out journalists’ responsibilities –
- Contractual responsibility in relation to their media and their internal organization.
- A social responsibility entailing obligations towards public opinion and society as a whole.
- Responsibility or liability deriving from the obligation to comply with the law.
- Responsibility towards the international community, relating to respect for human values.
Media Ethics –
Journalistic codes usually take into account the following concepts –
- Safeguarding freedom of information.
- Freedom of access to information sources.
- Objectivity, accuracy, truthfulness or the nOn-misrepresentation of facts.
- Responsibility to the public, and its rights and interests and in relation to national, racial and religious communities, the nation, the State and the maintenance of peace.
- The obligation to refrain from calumny, unfounded accusations, slander, violations of privacy.
- Integrity and independence.
- The right of replay and oafs correction.
- Respect of professional confidentiality.
- Consideration for the cultural, social or ethnic codes of individual countries.
However, “the scope of professional ethics is much wider than the texts of legal codes. For, in attempting to achieve a just balance between freedom and responsibility, the ethical aspect of this dichotomy depend not only on conscious decisions by a journalist, but also on practices in the media and the general social environment,” the MacBride Report ways that the adoption of codes of ethics at national, and in some cases, at the regional level is desirable, provided that such codes are prepared and adopted by the profession itself, without government interference. It recommends that Codes of Ethics aim at the following objectives –
- In protect the consumer readers, listeners, viewers, or the public in general;
- To protect and inspire the working journalist, broadcaster or other directly concerned with the gathering, writing, processing and presenting of news and opinions;
- To guide editors and others who take full legal responsibility for what is published and broadcast;
- To define the responsibilities of proprietors, shareholders and governments who are in a position of absolute control over any particular form of mass media communications activity;
- To deal with issues of advertisers and others who buy into the services . of the media.
A code of Ethics for Indian Journalists. Attempts to draw up a code of ethics for journalists in India have so far drawn a blank. Neither the Press Council nor the All India Editors’ Conference have come up with a code acceptable to the whole profession.
Press council guide lines. In 1966, the Press Council did circulate a list of guidelines to over 10,000 newspapers and journals, for their observations, out the feedback was not promising enough. In January 1976, a committee of 17 editors presented a Code of Ethics and an editors Charter to parliament, but it was suspect, evolved as it was during the emergency regime. It gave a rather tall order in stating that the press must present a truthful, comprehensive and reliable account of the events in a context which gives them meaning, project a representative picture of constituent groups in society, regard itself as a forum for comment and criticism and discharge its social responsibilities by clarifying the goals and values of society. The All-India Small and Medium.
News papers’ Association had drawn up a Code of Ethics in 1975; however, it was not approved of by the general body. The Second Press Commission (1982) maintained that it would not be desirable to draw up a Code of Ethics for newspapers. It supported the Press Council’s stand that a code should be built up case by case e ver a period of time.
Self-Regulation. The consensus, However, appears to be that the press should be trusted to regulate itself, and where it invades privacy, or distorts facts, of fosters communalism or fanaticism, the Press Council has powers enough fo pull up the offending papers and magazines. One of the penalties suggested is the withdrawal of government advertisements; the other is withdrawal of accreditation to journalists. However, the Press Council has been reluctant to impose any such penalties.
Discuss ths guidelines to journalistic Ethics.
Press Council’s Journalistic Ethics
Press council’! Guide to Journalistic Ethics. The Press council of Ihdia has been established to ‘Preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies’. The Council is enjoined to ‘build up’ a Code of Conduct for newspapers, news agencies and journalistic in accordance with high professional standards. A compendium of broad principles evolved by the Press Council through its adjudications/ principles was first published in 1983-84. In October 1992, the Council published ‘an updated but succinct compilation of the principles of journalistic ethics sorted out from the adjudications of the Council and the guidelines issued by it in their wake’; (The Guide to Journalistic Ethics was further revised and updated in 1995 by the present Chairman, Mr. Justice P.B. Sawant). Below are excerpts form, the 1992 Guidelines –
1. Accuracy and Fairness, the fundamental objective of journalism declares the Guide, is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest, in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decadent manner. Publication of inaccurate, baseless, graceless, misleading or distorted material should be avoided. All sides of the core issues or subject should be reported.
(a) Verification and checking of news before publication is necessary where its publication and the comments based thereon can create – complication^, such as –
- Where it is likely to incite communal passions .
- Where it is of a slanderous nature.
(b) However, failure to observe strictly this rule as to pre-publication verification would not necessarily amount to a breach of journalistic ethics on the part of the editor.
- Where the impugned news item was merely statement made by a responsible political leader of the ruling party at a press conference or a public statement of a recognized leader, or
- Where the impugned news item was based on the report of an
accredited correspondent. Provided in either case it was in respect to a matter of public concern. 3
- Unjustified rumors and surmises should not be set fourth as facts.
2. Journalists should judge no one unheard.
3. Cautions against Defamatory Writings. Newspapers should not; publish anything which is per se defamatory or libelous against any individual or organization unless after due care and checking they have sufficient reason to believe that it is true and its publication will be for public good,
4. (a) Pre-publication Verification of Reports Necessary, Whenever .a newspaper receives a report or article containing defamatory or derogatory imputation or comments against a public figure, public servant or public organization, touching his/her or its public conduct or character in so far as it appears in that conduct, the editor should, before publishing it, check with due care and attention, its factual accuracy apart from other authentic source, with the person or the organization concerned to elicit his/her or its version, comments or reaction and publish the same.
If the person or the organization likely to be affected by that report/article refuses to give his/her counter-version or reaction, despite sincere efforts made by the editor, a footnote to that effect should be published along with the report or the article. If from the counter version given by the person or organization concerned the editor’s mind is left rocking with doubt in regard to the veracity’ or any part of the report/ article, he should omit form publication that part and publish the rest with the consequential amendment, provided the editor is satisfied that the remainder is substantially accurate and its publication will be for public benefit. If such doubt permeates the whole of the report/ article, the pmdent course for his is not to publish it all.
(b) This salutary rule of journalistic ethics and fairness follows as a necessary corollary from two basic principles: the first is a fundamental canon of natural justice, that no one should be condemned unheard. The second is, that freedom of the press is not merely a right of the publishers and editor but also of the readers’/peoples’ right to know all sides of an issue of public interest. The editor, therefore, cannot refuse to publish the reply or rejoinder merely on the ground that in his opinion the story published in the newspaper was true. That is an issue to be left to the judgement of the readers.
5. Privacy. Instruction or invasion on the privacy of individuals is not permissible unless outweighed by genuine overriding public interest, not being a president or morbid curiosity. (Explanation: Things concerning a person’s home, family, religion, health, sexuality, personal life and private affairs are covered by the concept of privacy expecting where any or these impinge (upon the public or public interest).
Victims Of Sex Crimes-Caution Against Publication Of Names OR Pictures –
6. While reporting crimes involving rape or molestation of women, of sexual assault on children, or raising doubts and questions torching the chastity, personal character and privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity should not be published. While such publication serve no legitimate public purpose, it may bring social opprobrium to the victims and social embarrassment to their relations, family, friends, community, religious order or the institution to which they belong.
7. Newspapers to eschew suggestive guilt by association. They should
not name or identify the family or relatives or associates of a person convicted or accused of a crime, when they are totally innocent and a reference to them is not relevant to the matter reported.
8. Correction. When any factual error or mistake is detected or confirmed, the newspaper should publish the correction promptly with due prominence and with apology or expression of regret in a case of serious lapse.
9. (a) Right of Reply. The newspaper should promptly publish at the instance of the person feeling aggrieved/or concerned by the impugned publication, a contradiction/reply/rejoinder sent to the editor in the form of a letter or note. The editor has a discretion either to publish it, in full or publish its abridged and edited version, particularly when it is inordinately long. But the reminder should be an effective replay to the allegations. However, the editor is not entitled to alter, omit or refuse to publish important portions of the reply/rejoinder which effectively deal with the material allegations in the news item.
If the editor doubts the truth or factual accuracy of the contradiction/ reply/rejoinder, even then, it is his/her duty to publish it, with liberty to add separately at the end, an editorial comment doubting its veracity, but only when this doubt is reasonably founded on unimpeachable documentary or other evidential material in his/her possession. The editor should not, in a cavalier fashion, without the application of mind, append such note, as ‘we stand by our story’ It must be remembered that the liberty to append an editorial comment to a rejoinder or reply, is not an absolute right. It is a concession which has to be availed of sparingly with due discretion and caution in aopropriate cases.
(b) However, where the reply/contradiction or rejoinder is being published in compliance with the direction of the Press council, it is permissible to append a brief editorial note to that effect.
10. Lexers to the Editor. An editor who decides to open his columns for letters on a controversial subject, is not obliged to publish all the letters received in regard to that subject. He is entitled to select and publish only some of them either in entirely or the gist thereof. However, in exercising this discretion he must make an honest endeavour to ensure that what is published is not one¬sided but represents a fair balance between the views for and against with respect to the principal issue in controversy. In the event of rejoinder upon rejoinder upon rejoinder being sent by two parties on a controversial subject, the editor has the discretion to decide at which stage to close the continuing column.
11. Conjecture, Comment and Fact. Newspapers should not pass on or elevate conjecture, speculation or comment as a statement of fact. All these categories should be distinctly stated.
Paramount Interests Of State. Society And Right Of Individuals Not To Be Jeopardised –
12. Newspapers should, as a matter of self-regulation, exercise due restraint and caution in presenting any news, comment or information which is likely to jeopardize, endanger or harm the paramount interests of the State and Society, or the rights of individuals, for the protection of which reasonable restrictions may be imposed by law on the right to freedom of speech and expression under Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
13. Newspapers may Expose Misuse of Diplomatic Immunity. The media should make every possible effort to build bridges of cooperation, friendly relations and in developing better understanding between India and foreign states. At the same time, it is the duty of a newspaper to expose if any diplomat is trying to misuse or take undue advantage of the diplomatic immunities.
14. Covering Communal Disputes/Clashes. News, views or comments relating to communal or religious disputes/clashes should be published after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution and restraint in a manner which is conductive to the reaction of an atmosphere congenial to com’ anal harmony, amity an peace. Sensational, provocative and alarming head-ties are to be avoided. Acts of communal violence or vandalism should be reported in a manner as may not undermine the people’s confidence in the law and order machinery of the state. .Giving community-wise figures of the victims of communal riot, or writing to inflame passions, aggravate the tensions, or accentuate the strained relations between the communities/ religious groups concerned, or which has a potential to exacerbate the trouble, should be avoided.
Headings Should Not Be Sensational/Provocative And Must Justify The Matter Printed Under Them –
15. In general, and particularly, in the context of communal disputes of clashes – .
- Provocative and sensational headlines should be avoided.
- Headings must reflect and justify the matter printed under them.
- Heading containing allegations made in “Mements should either identify the body or the source making it or at least carry quotation marks.’
16. Plagiarism. Using or passing off the writings or ideas of another as one’s own, without crediting the source, is an offence against the ethics of journalism.
17. Recording Interviews and Phone conversations. Journalists should not tape-record anyone’s-conversation without that person’s knowledge or consent, except where the recording is necessary to protect the journalist in a legal action, or for other compelling good reason.
18. (a) Obscenity and Vulgarity to be Eschewed. Newspapers/journalists should not publish anything which is obscene, vulgar or offensive to public good taste.
(b) Newspaper should not publish an advertisement containing which is unlawful or illegal, or is contrary to good taste or to journalistic ethics or proprieties.
(c) Newspapers should not display advertisements which are vulgar or which, through picture of a woman in nude or lewd posture, provoke the lecherous attention of males as if she herself was a commercial commodity for sale. .
(d) While publishing the tape-recorded statement of another, the editor
should delete obscene or filthy epithets offensive to good public taste, with which the person stating might have a punctuated the tenor or tone or his/her answers.
19. Glorifying violence to be eschewed. Newspapers/joumalists should avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robbers and terrorist activities in a manner that glorifies their acts or death in the eyes of the public.
20. Glorification/Encouragement of Social Evils to be Eschewed. Newspapers should not allow their columns to be misused for writings which have a tendency to encourage or glorify social evils like Sati Pratha.
21. (a) Caution in Criticizing Judicial Acts. Excepting where the court sits in camera or directs otherwise, it is open to a newspaper to report pending judicial proceedings, in a fair, accurate and reasonable manner. But it should not publish anything –
- which, in its direct and immediate effect, creates a substantial risk of obstructing, impeding or prejudicing seriously the due administration of justice; or
- is in the nature of a running commentary or debate, or records the paper’s own findings, conjectures, “reflections or comments on issues, sub-judice, and which may amount to arrogation to the newspaper the functions of the court; or.
- regarding the personal character of the accused standing trial on a charge of committing a crime.
(b) Newspapers should not as a matter of caution, publish or comment on evidence collected as a result of investigative journalism, when after the accused is arrested and charges, the curt become seized of the case; nor should they reveal, comment upon or evaluate a confession allegedly made by the accused.
(d) While newspapers may, in the public interest, make reasonable criticism of a judicial act or the judgments of a court for public good; they should not cast scurrilous aspersions on, or impute improper motives or personal bias to the judge; nor should they scandalize the court or the judiciary as a whole, or make personal allegations or lack of ability or integrity against a judge.
22. Newspapers should avoid crass commercialism. While newspapers are entitled to ensure, improve or strengthen their financial viability by all legitimate means, they should not engage themselves through the print media, in crass commercialism or unseemly, cut-throat competition with their rivals, for earning ever more profits for their proprietors, in a manner which is repugnant to high professional standards and good taste, and tends to downgrade the primary role of the free press as an essential institution of democracy to a secondary, subservient place.
23. Photographs of Dead Bodies of Victims of Crimes of Crimes/ Accidents. Photo-journalism is an important part of the print media. While intrusion through photography into personal grief likely to hurt sentiments or arouse communal passions, should be avoided, publication of photographs serving the larger public interest cannot be termed unethical or in bad taste. In the Indian environment, publication of the photographs of the dead hodie of the victims of accidents or natural calamity may not be per use .vrong unless objected to be near relations Of the deceased.
24. (a) Caste; Religion or compiunity Disclosures to be Generali; Avoided. In general, the identification of a person belonging to schedule caste or depressed class, with reference to his caste or by use of the wr j ‘Harijan’ should be avoided, particularly when in the contest it conveys a sense or attributes a conduct or.practice derogatory to that caste.
(b) It is not desirable for a journalist to describe of person accused of an offence by mentioning his caste when die caste does not have anything to do with the offence or the crime and plays no part either in the identification of any accused or proceeding, if there be any.
(c) Except when it becomes relevant and material, if is not proper and desirable to monition the caste, religion or community of an assailant or victim in a news item. Mention of costae, creed, religion, or community usually serve1 no useful purpose, but may at times have the unfortunate effect of creating ill feeling among communities and individuals.
25. (a) Editor’s Responsibility for all matter published in the Newspaper. The editor shall assume responsibility for all matter, including advertisements, published in the newspaper. If responsibility is disclaimed this shall be explicitly stated before hand.
(b) Unconfirmed-news shall be identified news shall be identified and treated as such.
26. Confidence to be Respected. If information is received from a confidential source, the confidence should be respected. The journalists cannot be compelled by the Press Council to disclose such source; but it shall not be regarded as a breach of journalistic ethcis if the source is voluntarily disclosed in proceedings before the concil by the journalist who considers it necessary to repel effectively a charge against him/her. This rule reqiring a newspaper not to public matters disclosed to it in confidence, is not applicable where
- consent of the source is subsequently obtained.
- The editor clarified by way of an appropriate footnote that since the _ publication of certain matters were in the public interests, the information in question was being published although it has been , made ‘off the record.’
27. Dummy Advertisements. Publications of dummy advertisements that have height been paid for, nor authorised by the advertisers, constitute breach of journalistic ethics.
Discuss the government control of Press through censorship.
Censorship in the Press. With the return of the emergency regime in 1978, the threats against the freedom of the press grew more ominous than ever. In a case involving a newspaper, the Supreme Court ruled that “the freedom of the press rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.” It also held that “it would certainly not be legitimate to subject the press to laws which would curtail circulation.”
Newsprint. The newsprint advisory committee of the Central Government once considered proposals to deny newsprint to papers “indulging in anti¬national activities”, as also to those ‘found guilty by a court of law or censured by the Press Council for publishing material which is obscene or against good taste or which advocates violence, spreads ill-feeling between various communities or is likely to endanger the unity and integrity and defence of the country.’ Such a move would kill whatever semblance of press freedom we have today, for as the Editors’ Guild ot India’s response indicates, ‘the powers sought by the government are omnibus in nature and the so-called defences are vaguely defined. ’ As though the monopolistic conrol in newsprint were not enough, the Government has licensed all import of printing machinery, and prohibited any direct subscription to a foreign news agency. It has to be channelled through the government.
Control by Advertisements. Yet another lever of control exercised tactfully by the Government is the issue of advertisements by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP). . . a body that undertakes visual publicity campaigns on behalf of various ministries, departments and autonomous bodies. Besides, State Governments too have their own publicity departments. Medium and small newspapers are beholden to these bodies for very often their very substence depends on the largesse from them.
Volume 2 of the Annual Report of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting provides an exhaustive list of the amount paid each year by the DAVP to the big, medium and small newspapers for buying space for advertising. Below is a sample of the revenue earned by some well-known dailies in 1996 :
(Source: Compiled from Annual Report 1996-97, Vol. II, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) Emergency Terrors. Moreover, the threats of pre-censorship, of confiscation of printed copies and seizure of printing presses, and of the cutting off of electricity to newspaper establishments – all reminiscent of the dark days of the emergency – are not imaginary fears. The suppression of the Asli Bharat and some other publications that reported the Moradabad riots, and of the Assam press during the agitations in that State, are still fresh in freedom- lovers’ minds.
The Assam High Court’s striking down of the Assam State’s Special Powers Press Act, under which pre-censorship was clamped, demonstrates how the only protection press freedom in Idia can hope to get is from the Courts. Or, from a vigilant public, s the withdrawal of the Bihar Press Bill (1982) demonstrates. Far more worrying than the external threats of censorship are the internal threats from proprietors, senior journalists and news editors who would rather play safe than endanger their own interests, bot professional and material.
‘Self-censorship’ in journalism, not so much out of concern for public welfare and interest, but rather out of a desire to curry favour with local politicans, advertisers and other lobbyists, has led to a decline in the credibility of the press. In Maharashtra, for instance, it is a regular practice for journalists to act as the public relations agents of sugar barons, builders and local politicians.
Discuss main press Laws.
Besides the restrictions imposed on the press by the Constitution, there exist various, other laws which further curtail press freedom and the right of the citizen to information, as well as the right to freedom of speech and expression. They are all in force in the interest of public order, of the sovereignty and security of the State.
1. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 which makes it an offence (a) to incite enmity between different classes of citizens, (b) to spread any runours or reports liley to incite members of the Armed Forces to mutiny or failure of duty, (c) to cause alarm to any section of the public whereby there is an inducement to commit an offence against the State or against public peace, (d) to incite one class or community against another, (e) to utter words or to make visible representations with intent to would religious feelings or beliefs of another person, or any of classof citizens.
2. The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 whcih empowers the State to intercept, detain, or not to transmit any message, in the interest of public safety, public order, the sovereignty and integrity, and security of the State. Press messages intended to be published in India by corespondents accredited to the Central Government or a State Government can be intercepted or detained only during a public emergency.
3. Indian Post Office Act, 1898 which gives the state or its representative the right to intercept, detail or not to send any indecent or obscene publications or representations.
4. The Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1992, which provides for a penalty for spreading disaffection among the police and for related offences.
5. Official Secrets Act, 1923 which prohibits obtaining, collecting, recording or publishing of secret government documents or photographs or sketches or models. It is this Act which prevents Indian journalist from publishing inside information about the government.
6. The Security and Public Safety Acts of the various States. These deal with penalties for inciting commission of ‘subversive acts.
7. The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954, which in the interests of public health, bans advertisements of magic cures of sexual ailments, and the like.
8. Section 11 of the Customs Act, 1962 which gives Government the power to ban import and export of goods in the interests of security, public order, and decency and morality.
9. The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which empowers the State to forefeit copies of a publication that offends Indian Penal Code provisions relating to public order or security of the State.
10. The Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956 disallows publication and circulation of any literature likely to encourage anti-social tendencies among children. ‘
11. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 relates to the wilful disobedience of judicial orders and the like, and to any publication which interferes with or undermines the administration of justice. For example, a journalist is guilty of contempt of court if he or she publishes a report ona case held in camera (in the private chamber of the judge).
12. The Copyright Act, 1957 (as amended up to August 1984) which protects the original works of the writers, artists, musicians, dramatists, film and video producers and other creative persons from being pirated.
Freedom Of Speech And Expression: Rulings Of The Supreme Court Of India –
Article 19 (1) (a) defined freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. There is no ‘ special provision in the fundamental rights on the freedom of the Press but it has been included in the freedom of speech and expression. A few judgements of the Supreme Court point out the – efficacy of that of freedom of speech and expression.
The supreme court opined while taking the decisions that the right to propagate one’s ideas was inherent in the concept of freedom of speech and expression and that for the purpose of propagating his ideas, every citizen had a right to publish, disseminate and circulate them. While this freedom is fundamental, the exercise of this freedom is not absolute (Sakai Papers versus the union of Indi^; AIR 1962; SC 305).
The Constitution (First Amendment) Act (1951) –
It was realised from experience that the right to freedom of expression was held by some courts to be so comprehensive that no action could be taken against an individual who advocated murder and other violent crimes. Hence, the Constitution (First Amendment) Act was passed in June, 1951. According to this Amendment, it was provided that the right to freedom of speech was to be subjected to all laws imposing restrictions with regard to the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to offences. Hence, the freedom of speech and expression could be curbed by such reasonable restrictions as the legislatures might deem fit in thesa areas.
Press (Incitement To Crimes) Bill (1951) –
When the First Amendment was being debated in the Parliament, the government promised to introduce a Press Bill that was to be free from the objectionable features of the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act of 1931 and which was in accordance with the new Constitution of India. On August 21,1951, this Bill was introduced in the Parliament its name was changed, however, due to its resemblance with the Act of 1908 that had a similar title.
The amended Bill was passed by the Parliament. It received the consent of the President in October, 1951. This law was directed against the encouragement of violence and sabotage of certain other grave offences and publication of seditious matter. No pre-censorship was imposed on any newspaper. No action was to be taken against any newspaper unless it actually abused its freedom by publishing objectionable matter. Section 3 of the Act defines the term Objectionable Matter as any words, signs or visible representations, which are likely to –
(a) incite or encourage any person to resort to violence or sabotage for
the purpose of overthrowing or undermining the Government established by law in India or in any state thereof or its authority in any area; or .
(b) incite or encourage any person to commit murder, sabotage or any offence involving violence; or
(c) incite or encourage any person to interfere with the supply and distribution of food or other essential commodities or essential services; or
(d) seduce any member of any of the armed forces of the Union or of the police forces from his allegiance to his duty, or prejudice the recruiting of persons to serve in any such force or prejudice the discipline of any such forces or promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different sections of the people of India that are grossly indecent or scurrilous or obscene or intended for blackmail.
There was no demand for security deposit or its forfeiture by the executive but the Session judge, had the powers to demand and forfeit the security deposit. The Sessions Judge was to pass orders only after a full trial. He wascupposed to hear the arguments of the government and the keeper of the Press or newspaper publisher. The keeper Of the press or newspaper publisher had the right to be tried by a special jury composed of persons particularly qualified to sit in judgement over cases of the abuse of the freedom of the Press by journalistic experience or by an association with public.
A right of appeal was provided to the High Court of all points involved in every case. The amount of security deposit was not to be very high. In no case, more than the amount specified in the complaint made by the competent authority was to be ordered. Provision was made for the return of the security if no further action was taken in respect of the press or the newspaper or the newssheet for a period of 2 years from the date of deposit. Provision was made against double penalty. Any offence punishable under the Act and any abetment of such an offence was made cognizable and bailable. This Act repealed all other laws related to the Press.
The Constitution (Second Amendment ACT (1952) –
Another Amendment was made to provide for the restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
Contempt Of Court Act (1952) –
No motion of the liberty of the press can stand in the way of the inherent power of the court to punish any publication which amounts to contempt. Article 19(2) of the Constitution makes it clear that reasonable restrictions could be imposed on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression inter alia in relation to contempt of court.
Now let us go to the conclusion that what implications and conclusions can be drawn from this brief coverage of various Acts and provisions relating to information, transmission and communication. Far one thing it is clear that the legal restrictions on information etc., are becoming more and more numerous and complicated and communication are becoming more critical. Thus mass communication through mass media cannot be made safely without wighing its legal consequences.
Communicating men and women, institutions, organisation, advertisers have to check out the matter with legal implications. So, in order to avoid legal complications, messages oral or written are to he connected with extreme caution and car, truth, public peace and tranquility.
Right To Information
Discuss the taw provisions of Right to Information.
The Act. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires.
(a) “Appropriate Government” means in relation to a public authority established Constituted, owned, substantially financed by funds provided directly or Indirectly or controlled.
- by the Central Government, the Central Government; .
- by the State Government, the State Government, the State Government.
- by the Union Territory, the Central Government.
(b) “Competent Authority” means
- the Speaker in the case of the House of the people or the Legislative Assembly and the Chairman in the case of the Council of States or the Legislative Council;
- he Chief Justice of India in the case of the Supreme Court;
- the Chief Justice of the High Court in the case of a High Court;
- the President or the Governor as the case may be in case other authorities created by or under the Constitution;
- the administrator appointed under Article 239 of the Constitution.
(c) “Freedom of information” means the right to obtain information from any public Authority by means of
- inspection, taking of extracts and notes;
- certified” copies of any records of sub public authority;
- diskettes, floppies or in any other electronic mode through print-outs where such information is stored computer or in any other device.
(d) “Information” means any material relating to the administration operations or decisions of a public authority;
(e) “Prescribed” means prescribed by rules under this Act by the appropriate Government or the competent authority, as the case may be;
- “Public Authority” means any authority or body established constituted –
- by or under the Constitution;
- by any law made by the appropriate Government an including any other body owned, controlled or substantial financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government.
(g) “Public Information Officer” means the Public Information Officer appointed under sub-section (1) of section 4;
(h) Record’ includes
- any document, manuscript and file;
- any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document.
- any reproduction of image or images embodied in sum microfilm whether enlarged or not); and
- any other material produced by a computer or by an other device;
- “Third Party” means a person other than the person making request for information and included a public authority.
Obligations on Public Authorities. Every public Authority shall
(a) maintain all its records, in such a manner and form as is consistent with its operational requirements duly cataloged and indexed;
(b) publish at such intervals as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government or competent authority.
- the particulars of its organization, functions and duties;
- the powers and duties of its officers and employees and the procedure followed by the in the decision making process;
- the norms set by the public authority for the discharge of its functions;
- rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and other categories of records under its control used by its employees for discharging its employees for discharging its functions;
- the details of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information officer.
- the name, designation and other particulars of the Public Information officer.
(c) Publish all relevant fact concerning important decisions and policies that affect the public while announcing such decisions, and policies;
(d) give reasons for its decisions, whether administrative or quasi-judicial to those affected by such decisions;
(e) before initiating any project publish or communicate to the public generally of to the persons affected by the project in particular, the facts available to it or to which it has reasonable access which in its opinion should be known to them in the best interests of natural justice and promotion of democratic principles.
Appointment of Public Information Officers. 5. (/) Every public authority shall for the purposes of this Act, appoint one or more officers as Public Information officers; (ii) Every Public Information Officer shall Del with requests for Information and shall render reasonable assistance to any * person seeking such information; (iii) The Public Information Officer may seek the assistance of any other officer as he considers necessary for the proper discharge of his duties; (iv) Any officer whose assistance has been sought under sub-section (3), shall render all assistance to the Public Information Officer seeking his assistance.
Requests for Obtaining Information. 6. A person desirous of obtaining information shall make a request in writing or through electronic means, to the concerned Public Information Officer specifying the particulars of the information sought by him.
Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Public Information Officers shall, all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce it in writing.
Disposal of Requests. 7. (a) On receipt of a request under section 6, the public Information Officer shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty working days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information requested on payment of such fees as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 8
Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life and liberty of a person, the same should be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.
Provided further that where it is decided to provide the information on payment of any further fee representing the cost of providing the information, he shall send an intimation to the person making the request, giving details of the fees determined by him, requesting him to deposit the fees and the period intervening between the dispatch of the said intimation and payment of fees shall be excluded for the propose of calculating the period of thirty days referred toaTiove.
(b) Before taking any decision under section (a), the Public Information Officer shall take into consideration the representation made by a third party under section 11.
(c) Where a request is rejected under sub-section (b), the Public Information Officer shall communicate to the person making the request
(iv) the reasons fof such rejection; (v) the period within which the appeal against such rejection may be preferred; (v/) the particulars of the appellate authority.
4. Information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of a public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of recprd in question.
Exemption From Disclosure Or Information –
8. 1. Notwithstanding anything herein before contained, the following information not being information relating to any matter referred to in sub-section (2), shall be exempted from disclosure, namely;
(a) information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, strategic scientific or economic interest of India or conduct of international relations; (b) information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect public safety and order, detection and investigation of an offence or which may lead to any incitement to commit an offence or prejudicially affect fair trial or adjudication of a pending case; (c) Information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the conduct of Center-State relations, including information exchanged in confidence between the Central and State Governments or any of their authorities or agencies; (d) cabinet papers including records of the deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers; (e) minutes or records of advice including legal advice, opinions of recommendations made by an officer of a public authority during the decision making process prior to the executive decision or policy formulation; (f). trade or commercial secrets protected by law or information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the legitimate economic and commercial interests or the competitive position of a public authority; or would cause unfair gain or loss to any person; (g) Information, the disclosure of which may result in the breach of privileges of Parliament or the Legislature of a State, contravention of a lawful order of a court.
2. Subject to sub-section 1(a), any informatics relating to any occurrence, f event or matte which has taken place occurred or happened twenty-five years before the date on which any requests is made under section 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section :
Provided that where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty-five years has to bt computed, the decision of the Central Government shall be final.
Grounds For Refusal Of Access, In Certain Cases –
9. Without prejudice to the provisions of section 8, a Public Information Officer may reject a request for information also where such request –
(a) is too general in nature or is of such a nature that, having regard to the volume of information required to be retrieved or processed would involve unreasonable diversion of the resources of a public authority or would adversely interfere with the functioning of such authority;
Provided that where such request is rejected on the ground that the request is too general, it would be the duty of the Public Information officer to render help as far as possible to the person making requests to reframe his request in such a manner as may facilitate compliance with it; (b) relates to information that is required by law, rales regulations or order to be published at a particular time and such information is likely to be so published within thirty days of the receipt of such requests; or (c) relates to information that is contained in published material available to public; (cl) relates to information which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of any person.
10. If a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation.
(i) to information which is exempted from disclosure, then notwithstanding anything contained irf this Act, access may be given to that part of the record which does not contain any information that is exempted from disclosure this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempted information; (n) Where access is granted to a part of in-accordance with sub-section (1), person making the request shall be informed –
- that only part of the record requested, after severance of the record containing information which is exempted from the disclosure, is being furnished; and
- of the provisions of the Act under which the severed part is exempted from disclosure;
Third Party Information –
11. (1) Where a public authority intends to disclose information or record, or part thereof, on a request made under this Act which relates to, or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the pubic Information Officer, shall within twenty-five days front the receipt of the request and of the fact that the or part thereof;
Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or it jury to the interest of such third party.
2. Where a notice is given by the Public information Officer under subsection (1) to a third party in respect of any information or record or part thereof, the third party shall, within twenty days from the date of issuance of notice, be given the opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure. . .
3. Notwithstanding anything contained in section 7, the Public Information Officer shall, within sixty days after receipt of the,request under section 6, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation under sub-section (2) make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information or record or part thereof and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.
4. A notice given under sub-section (3) shall include a statement that the third party to whom tire notice is given is entitled to prefer an appeal against the decision under section.
12. (1) Any person aggrieved by a decision of the public Information Officer may, within thirty days of receipt of such decision, prefer an appeal to such authority any may be prescribed:
Provided that such authority may entertain the appeal after the expire of the said period of thirty days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause form filling the appeal time.
2. A second appeal against the decision under sub-section.
3. shall lie with in thirty days of such decision, to the central Government
or the state Government or the competent authority, as the case may be may entertain the appeal after expiry. Of the said period or third day? ifitixSaTrsfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause form filing the appeal in time.
4. If the decision of the public information Officers against which the appeal is preferred under sub-section (1) and (2) also related to information of third party, the appellate authority shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.
Trace the development of Press Council. Is it a toothless organisations? Discuss.
Press Council –
First Press Council. In the recommendation of the first Press Commission, the Indian Press Council Act (1965) was enacted and under it, the First Press Council was set up on July 4, 1996. The Act was, however, repealed in 1975 during the Emergency and the Press Council was abolished. The Act was re-enacted substantially on the same terms in 1978 and the Press Council was re-established under it in 1979. The Council is a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal and, shall, by the said name, sue and be sued.
Objectives of the First Press Council. The twin objects of the Press Council of India are embodied in the Press Council Act (1978). Section 13 of the Act (1978) states that the objects of the Press Council are to preserve the freedom of the Press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.
Composition of the First Press Council. 1. The council shall consist of a Chairman and 28 other members.
2. The Chairman shall be a person nominated by a Committee consisting of the Chairman of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), the Speaker of the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and a person elected by the members of the Council under sub-section (6) and the nomination made shall take effect from the date on which, it is notified by the Central Government in the Official Gazette.
3. Of the other membe. s. (a) thirteen shall be nominated, in accordance with such a procedure as may be prescribed, from among the working journalists of whom, six shall be editors of newspapers and the remaining seven shall be working journalists other than editors, so, however, that the number of such editors and working journalists other than editors in relation to newspapers published in Indian languages shall be not less than three and four, respectively; (b) six shall be nominated, in accordance with such a procedure as may be prescribed, from among persons who own or carry on the business of management of newspapers, so, however, that there shall be two representatives from each one of the categories of big newspapers medium newspapers and small newspapers; (c) one shall be nominated, in accordance with such procedures as may be prescribed, from among persons who manage news agencies; (d) there shall be persons having special knowledge or practical experience in education and science, law, literature, and culture, of whom, respectively, one shall be nominated by die University Grants Commission, one by the Bar Council of India and one by the Sahitya Academy; (e) five shall be the members of Parliament of who, three shall be nominated by the speaker from among the members of the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and two shall be nominated by the Chairman of the Council of the States (Rajya Sabha) from among its members, provided that no working journalist, who owns or carries on the business of management of any newspapers, shall be eligible for nomination under clause (a), provided further that the nominations under Clause (a) and Clause (b) shall be so made that among the persons nominated, there is not more than one person interested in any newspaper or group of newspapers under the same control or management.
4. Before making any nomination under Clause (a), Clause (b), or Clause (c) of sub-section (3), the Central government, in the case of the First Council and the retiring Chairman of the previous Council in die case of any subsequent council, shall, in the prescribed manner, invite panels of names comprising twice the number of members to be nominated from such associations of persons of the categories referred to in the said clause (a), Clause (b), or Clause (c), as may be notified on this behalf by the Central Government in the case of the First Council and by the Council itself in the case of subsequent Councils, provided that where there is no association of persons of the category referred to in the said Clause (c), the panels of names shall be invited from such news agencies as may be notified as aforesaid; and
5. The Central Government shall notify the names of persons nominated as members under the sub-section :
(a) in the Official Gazette and every such nomination shall take effect from the date on which, it is notified; and
(b) the members of the Council notified under sub-section (5) shall elect from among themselves, in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed, a person to be a member of the Committee referred to in sub¬section (2) and a meeting of the members of the Council for the purpose of such election shall be presided over by a person chosen from among themselves. (Section 5 of the Press Council Act, 197S)
Second Press Council. The Second Press Council of India was set up under the amended Press Council Act (1970). It was formed in October, 1970. Its functions and powers were much larger and perhaps, more important than those of its predecessor. .
The size of the Council was increased. The number of members was raised fo 26 (from 25) The Chairman was to be appointed in addition to the appointment of these members. The number of editors was fixed to six and the number of Journalists (other than editors) was fixed at seven. New agencies were brought under the scope of the functions of the Council. It had the power to ask any organisation (which was entitled to submit a panel for selection of its members) to produce its accounts for the purpose of scrutiny. When the first meeting of the First Press Council was organised, a sub-committee was set up to discuss the question of monopoly in the press.
The term of the Council was supposed to expire on September 30, 1973. On September 27, 1973, the President issued an ordinance that extended the life of the Council until June 30,1974. On June 28, 1974, the President issued another ordinance and extended its terms until December 31, 1974. On June 18, 1975, emergency was-declared by The President, Mr. Fakhraddin Ali Ahmed, before the sub-committee could submit its report. On December 8, 1975, the President issued an ordnance and abolished the Press Council wef January 10, 1976. ,
Third Press Council, Durings the days of emergency, censorship was imposed on the mass media. The Press was under attack. However, it was not able to protect itself from the wrath of the government. The Press Council was not viewed with suspicion in the changed scenario that was primarily a result of the autocratic rule of a democratically elected government. The Press Council (Repeal) Act (1976) stated that the Council was being done away with because it was not able to carry oh its functions effectively to achieve the objects for which, it was created. Thus, on January IQ, 1976, the Second Press Council _ was abolished.
In 1977, elections were held to elect a new Parliament. The government that had imposed emergency was voted out of power and a new government was established in the centre in its place. On December 23, 1977, the Press Council Bill (1977) was introduced by the then Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the Rajya Sabha.
Major Features of the Third Press Council, The major features of the Press Council Bill (1977) were as follows-
(a) The Council shall consist of a Chairman and 26 other members; out of these, 20 shall be nominated by the notified Press associations in accordance with a statistical procedure of selection, from among the working journalists, persons who own or carry on the business of management of newspapers etc. and those persons who manage newspapers and news agencies;
(b) The other six lay members of the Council shall be nominated by the respective bodies such as the UGC, Bar Council of India, Sahitya Akademi, and the Indian Parliament;
(c) The Council shall have the power to levy a fee from registered newspapers and news agencies. The amount of fee will depend upon the circulation of newspapers and other allied matters and the rates of fees will be provided for in the sales to be framed under the Act. The amount thus collected will partly meet the expenses of the Press Council. The balance of the expenditure will be met by the Central Government.
The Council helped the newspapers and agencies of those times maintain their independent identities. It also helped them improve their professional norms. Its objective was to build up a code of conduct for the Press and not to formulate it.
Is Press Council a Toothless Organisation. The Press Council is a statutory body. It was set up under the Press Council Act (1978). Its chief objectives are – (a) preservation of Press freedom; and (b) improvement of its standards and working.
The Press Council of India is empowered to help newspapers and news agencies maintain their independent status. It can also create a code of conduct for them. It can tell the journalists to follow this code of conduct in letter and spirit. It is a self-regulatory body. Its decisions act as codes of ethical operations for the journalists of the country. It has censured those governments that have tried to stifle the Press in India from time to time. It has also indicated those journalists who had indulged in scurrilous writing.
The aforementioned profile of the PFI is, no doubt, an ideal Curriculum Vitae ’ that ought to be emulated by other organistions in the field of media and journalism. However, realities are different and bitter. The Press Council has been branded as a toothless. The fact that the PCI has been called a toothless organisation can be found out from its history. We have explained Press Commissions and Press Councils in this chapter. Our valued readers are advised to read the sections devoted to these topics.
The role of the PCI is advisory is most of the cases. It can create or alter a code of conduct, as already stated. However, it is not binding on the Press or Components thereof to abide by. such a code of conduct. The same is in the case of a government that has malicious tendencies to harm the Press of our country. The PCI can request the government to lift curbs on Press freedom but it cannot order it. (the government) to do so. The law has been used to – create the PCI, but there is no judicial sanctity behind its decisions or declarations.
The PCI has a system of nomination of member in its statutory body. Selection of candidates is done through a complicated system. The system discriminates against journalists working outside New Delhi. Only reputed persons are selected in the statutory body of the PCI, Such a toothless organisation should be given adequate powers. The PCI . should be made an autonomous and powerful organisation. Further, it should be converted into Media Council of India (MCI). The concept was given by Sham Khosla (Vir Bala Aggarwal (ed) Media and Society: Challenges and opportunities. Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, PP XXIII, key note Address)
The Strength of the journalists of India should be consolidated by the new MCI. It should also regulate the ethical code of conduct of our country. Finally, the Government should be given appropriate notices by the MCI, if it refuses to restrict Press freedom or media freedom by any means. The procedures for challenging the actions of the government, should be defined.
Legal procedures must be defined beforehand, It is true that a journo or a newspaper publisher can go to the court directly for the redressal of his or its grievances. However, the MCI would be in a better position to understand the issues related to media andjoumalism. Hence, this new organ should be an outgrown version the PCI. It can be made an autonomous body with a power to sue and accountability the court of law.
If such kind of authenticity and power is associated with the new autonomous body, the government, private sector firms (in the media), common people, and law enforcing agencies would take it seriously. The author is against putting the PCI under any ministry. If this happens, the PCI would become a stooge of that government department or ministry. A free and fair media realm is a prerequisite for ensuring the sustenance of democracy in any … country. The PCI cannot be privatised either.
In such a case, it would become a stooge of the corporate sector. Hence, it is better to make it an autonomous body. Further, as already stated, the PCI should be converted into the MCI at an earliest possible date. That is because the PCI is losing its sheen and effectiveness. It is a toothless organisation that can be given teeth. The State is getting rid of all such institutions that are least productive or a burden on the socio-economic structure of our nation.
If its has not put some of such institutions under the guillotine, the only reason to do so is that it wants to go slow in the socio-economic reforms process. Nevertheless, change in institutional set-ups is inevitable and necessary. Those institutions, which are unable to deliver, ought to be done away with. The same fact can be applied in the context of the PCI as well: either provide teeth to it or give it a permanent state or rest.