“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” - George Orwell
Freedom of Press or media is an important tool without which no democracy can survive. In the world’s largest democratic country like India it becomes very important that the press and media should act freely for its effective functioning although it’s not absolute. Freedom the of press is not only important for the people who are exercising it, but it is also important for the citizens of the country as they get uninfluenced news then they could form correct opinions about some or the other issue. The fact that everybody has freedom of expression is accepted universally. Not only press or media, but it is a fundamental right of every citizen to express themselves through Various mediums of communication.
Importance of Freedom of Press
Article 19 (a) of the Indian constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and expression. And using this fundamental right media has unofficially played the role of regulating body to make this country a better place. Without media and press we actually don’t know whether politicians are doing their job properly or not in this case media play a role of watchdog. Although we elect the government, but it is important to have a constant check on the government, which isn’t possible without the help of free media. Free Media also plays a very vital role in framing the public policies regarding the criminal justice system in the country. And every time due to media, government has to set new standards.
Freedom of press in danger
There are various instances when freedom of the press was in danger. Whenever the media is in danger or the government tries to control it, then the whole country is in danger. A first major instance, when freedom of the media was crushed when, after the Bangladesh liberation war Indian government looked vulnerable after that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took control of media by imposing emergency as the media was the main villain for her. Recently, when journalist Arnab Goswami accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi for being silent on lynching of two sadhus in Maharashtra’s Palghar where congress is currently in power. After that, two FIRs were filled against Arnab Goswami in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, where congress is in power. This shows how state government is using state machinery to indirectly curtail the freedom of the press and media. This is not only with one journalist in recent time against whom the state machinery is being used to stop journalist for giving statements which are in opposing nature to the governments.
Responsibility of media and press
With more rights comes more responsibilities come and the problem starts when the media just for their profit-making tries to overuse their rights. Although the Indian constitution provides every citizen right to freedom of speech and expression, however it is not absolute. The government may impose restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in the interest of integrity and sovereignty of India. There are various instances where media proved that restrictions are must on the freedom of speech and expression. The perfect example for this is Mumbai attack on November 26, 2008. When Rapid Action Force, Mumbai Police and National Security Guard and marine commandos surrounded the Oberoi Trident and Taj Hotel, at that time, many channels were live reporting the incident on TV and taking advantage of this, terrorists had proper information that what will be the next move of the Indian forces. Even the Supreme Court pointed out that the media should have some regulations themselves. Media needs to draw a line themselves and if doesn’t happen then either government or court must intervene.
Democracy can’t exist without free media. Even if we don’t consider the media, it’s their right as a person for free speech and expressing. But the media should be sensible enough to not place India’s sovereignty at stake. And understanding the morals, media should act responsibly. According to the data of World Press Freedom index 2020, India is already on 144th rank out of 180. If various governments continue to curtail media freedom soon, we will be at the bottom of the list. Government has to take necessary measures to normalize the current situation so that India democracy continues to work properly.
- LEGAL HUMMING
(CO-AUTHOR VIKRAM SINGH MEENA)