The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has informed the Supreme Court that if the court undertakes an exercise to regulate media then it should be “digital media first” as it has a faster reach from a wider range of viewership.
The BJP led Modi government Ministry in an affidavit in the Supreme Court said while in a mainstream media (whether electronic or print), the publication or telecast is a one-time act, the digital media has faster reach to a wider range of readership and has the potential to become viral because of several electronic applications like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook.
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has further stated that if the top court considers it appropriate to undertake to exercise of laying down standards to help regulate the media, “then there is no justification to confine this exercise only to mainstream electronic media.”
“The media includes mainstream electronic media, mainstream print media as well as a parallel media namely digital print media and digital web-based news portal and you tube channels as well as ‘Over The Top’ platforms,” reads the Centre’s affidavit.
The Centre has maintained that the area of balancing freedom of speech and responsible journalism is already governed by statutory provisions and past judgments.
Earlier the bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, K.M. Joseph and Indu Malhotra has stayed the broadcast of Sudarshan TV programme UPSC Jihad, until further orders.
The apex court has also indicated the setting up of a five-member committee, including people of commendable stature without having any politically divisive orientation, to provide standards for electronic media.
On this aspect, the Ministry in the affidavit said the present petition is concerned with balancing between the journalist’s freedom and responsible journalism, which is a field already occupied either by the statutory provisions made by Parliament or by the judgments of the Supreme Court.
[splco_quote] “…In view of the issue having already received attention of the Parliament, as well as, of this Court, the present petition be confined to only one channel namely Sudarshan T.V. and this Court may not undertake the exercise of laying down any further guidelines with or without appointment of an Amicus or a Committee of persons as Amicus,” said the affidavit.[/splco_quote]
The Court is also hearing a plea for an authoritative pronouncement on “hate speech” by former civil servants including Amitabha Pande and Navrekha Sharma, who have made an informal collective “Constitutional Conduct Group.”
Before the hearing today, counter-affidavits have been filed on behalf of the Central Government as well as Sudarshan TV.