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Regulating Media

Regulating Media

Assistant Editor

04 Apr, 2019

Freedom to the media is extremely important especially in a democracy like India but absolute freedom without check brings deformities with it, is not of much substance. Media freedom refers to the freedom of different kinds of media and sources of communication that operate in a political and civil society. Traditionally, the propagation medium was restricted to only print which later on extended to television, and presently internet is the latest addition in the list of various modes of dissemination of information. Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy therefore it is a cornerstone for the smooth functioning of a country. The free media in a country helps largely in the following:

Dissemination of genuine information related to public matters which otherwise is not easy to extract for a common man.

Bringing about transparency in the functioning of the governing bodies, corporates or any other entity.

Putting forward the debates and discussions on matters of public importance.

New ideas and critical thinking among the citizens by focusing on facts and figures instead of presenting a lopsided view.

Freedom in any form cannot be absolute and unchecked. Freedom of Media is of great importance but growing concerns of misinformation, data manipulation, fake news, populism etc. in the current scenario are forcing the authorities to put regulations on it to some extent. Granting cent percent freedom to the media is also harmful in the following ways:


Most of the times media plays a critical role in diverting people’s attention from issues that are critical and important such as unemployment, public policies, poverty etc. to not so relevant issues for example personal lives of celebrities.

Media houses usually try to attract people according to their ideologies. Sometimes they put forward an absolutely biased version of news and leave no stone unturned in making the people believe the same.

With the coming up of internet and influx of online media sources, the authenticity of the available information has become a huge issue. There should indeed be some mechanism to check the spreading up of fake news of harmful nature that has the capacity of destabilizing the socio- political environment of a country.

 The increase in terrorism is a growing concern for India and resultantly governments are adopting protectionist measures so as to avoid the leakage of sensitive information through media.

The freedom of the media is part of the freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. However, it does not mean that this freedom is used to misinform the public.

There is immense need of regulation over the activities of the media. But there are some critics who believe that media shouldn’t be regulated. Indeed Media Freedom should be regulated or not is a debatable issue of great importance. Another school of thought is “Self – Regulated Media”. The supporters of this school of thought believe that unregulated media may lead to destabilization of the socio- political environment of the country and government interference may jeopardize the freedom of expression. So, Self-regulated media is a great way in between the two extreme methods. Self-regulated media is an important concept where the people of the media on their own take up the responsibility of disseminating true and genuine information to the public. Self-regulation in the broadcast media is the best way forward in achieving a balance between the media's duty to empower the participatory role of the people in governance and the reasonable restrictions that prevent the abuse of its immense strength. This has been stated by Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of India, and Chairman of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority. In his keynote address on content regulation in India at the FICCI Media and Entertainment Business Conclave 2011 on Friday, Justice Verma stated  one thing that the media needed to remember was if it failed to exercise self-restraint and regulate its own conduct, then that would provide a justifiable reason for intervention from outside. While in a democracy, it was the media's duty to inform the people of everything of significance so that they could effectively discharge their participatory role in governance, this right to inform excluded the right to misinform as the media's right was no greater than an individual's right, which was again subject to reasonable restrictions. When you acquire great strength you should also realise that there is the danger of its misuse. Therefore, self-regulating is the best way so that there is no justification for any outside intervention to regulate,” he stated. Justice Verma also noted that there had been improvements over the last couple of years and cited the compliance of the media with the code of ethics framed by the National Broadcasters Association in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and the advisories issued from time to time. Justice Verma, while being critical of the words used by Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju in his remarks against the media, stated that the bottom line that should not be overlooked was the fact that a large tract of public opinion was in favour of the PCI chairman's views. Justice Verma's issues with the practice of journalism, especially by the electronic media, included the lack of decency and public interest purpose in airing repeated visuals of an assault on a prominent public figure. and the media trials that seriously interfere with the cause of justice, the negative terms used in referring to someone in high office who had been named an accused in a corruption case and the lack of due diligence that harmed the reputation of an individual.

By: Anuja Arora