This article is written by Parth Rishik, a student of Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University. This paper is written under the guidance and mentorship of Ex-chairman of Press council of India Hon’ble Justice M. Katju (Rtd.). This paper is an analytical study on why India needs a statutory law that will create a regulatory body whose aim will be to regulate the press/media, and this paper will show the marvel idea presented by Hon’ble Justice Markandey Katju (Rtd.)
In today’s time, the media works as a channelized form of circulation of false information that is fulling the communal violence in the mindsets of the citizens of India. The pre-existing bodies such News Broadcasters Association or Broadcast Editor Association have failed the idea of self-regulation as their sole motive has become to squeeze profit out of high TRP. It is seen that Journalism is diverting from its ethical code due to a lack of regulations and checks. Every profession has an ethical code and there is a regulatory body that regulates such profession. For instance, advocates are regulated under the Bar Council of India, and if an advocate engages in an act that is against his/her professional ethical code then he is punished by the very same regulatory body. The same goes for the doctors as they are regulated under the Medical Council of India. The lack of such a regulatory body has resulted in the deterrence of journalists from their ethical code, killing the very value of the profession. The paper will show various false reporting that has been done by various journalists that threaten the National Security and Integrity, for instance, the author will discuss the story of “Mr. Kulbhushan Jadhav” circulated by the Quint and was later taken down on the question of credibility. Yet, this article circulated by The Quint was shown in the International Court of Justice by Pakistan’s Attorney General as gospel truth which hinged the decision in the favour of Pakistan, making the return of Mr. Jadav difficult.
The Need of Regulations on Media
Media freedom is considered as one of the essentialities of today’s democratic structure. But the question that comes out is whether this freedom needs to be absolute, or certain restrictions are needed. In India no freedom is absolute, yet the self-regulatory bodies of media have made media an omnipotent which has sowed the seeds of corruption of false information being disseminated by the hands of media. People confuse between the term regulation and control, what we need is regulation on media and not control as presented by the Ex-Chairman of Press Council of India Hon’ble J. Markandey Katju. Regulations is the most essential part of a democracy; it is what ensures the rule of law prevails.
Regulations make certain that an organization do not disrupt the working mechanism of a nation, at the same time protects the ethical and moral codes of various professions, organizations, and administrative functions. Now media is operated by Journalists, which is a result of a professional course of Mass Communication. Every professional course has an ethical code, and the same is with journalism. The corruption in media is occurring because they are being disassociated from their ethical code because the present regulatory bodies do not have much authoritative power to regulate media in such a way that it ensures that journalists do not engage in an unethical means.
The reason behind it is the lack of penalization power provided to the media regulatory bodies which is Press Council of India (which only regulates press media) and News broadcasting Standard Authority (which is a self-regulatory body set up by News Broadcasters Association). For a better understanding of the idea of penalization, we must understand what extent of penalization we can impose on Media that it stands under the umbrella of regulation and not control. To understand this, we will take an example of how lawyers are regulated in India by the means of the BAR Association of India which is empowered to do so by the Advocates Act 1961. For Instance, if a lawyer is found to have indulged in an unethical business the BAR Association has the power to suspend that lawyer or take away his license to practice law all together. This regulation with the idea of penalization provides a deterrent effect which ensures that no lawyers will indulge in a business that is against their ethical code and if they do, they shall face consequences.
The first hurdle that is degrading the journalism standards in India is the little qualification needed to be a journalist. An excellent idea was provided by Hon’ble J. M. Katju to license the practice of journalism just like the profession of law, medicine, and teaching. This would have helped set up a standard for the professional course and would have provided a structure of penalization provision as the same we discussed above. The structure of license of journalism as provided by the committee of Shravan Garg and Rajeev Sabade, members of the Press Council of India, and Ujwala Barve who is an associate professor of journalism at Pune University set up by Hon’ble Justice himself at the capacity of Chairperson of Press Council of India, provided a basic structure that discussed the idea of examination for such license just the same as law profession. The exam would have been based on literature knowledge, analytical skills etc.
The second hurdle is the lack of authoritative power to regulate the Media sector. The Press Council of India has a limitation on its power of enforcing guidelines that have been issued and at the same time, it cannot penalize the news agency for violation of such guidelines. Another limitation is that the PCI only overviews the functioning of press media which includes newspapers, journals, magazines, and other forms of print media. Today’s online news portal and e-news fall outside its ambit. In today’s time with the coming generation choosing online news portal over traditional news sources it begs the question of how we regulate such a vast medium in a way that it ensures freedom of media but at the same time ensures fake news is not being disseminated. To understand how dangerous the fake news can be we will study the international case of Mr. Kulbhushan Jadhav who is detained in Pakistan with the allegations of being an Indian spy. This case is an overview at the International Court of Justice were Adv. Harish Salve represented India with the aim of bringing Mr. Jadhav back home. While this case was still going a senior journalist at the online news portal named The Quint published an article stating that he had confirmation from two RAW agents that Mr. Jadhav is indeed an Indian spy.
This article was shown by Pakistan’s Attorney in the International Court of Justice as gospel truth. Following this, The Quint took down the story on the basis of a lack of credibility. After some investigation, it was found that Mr. Nandy, the journalist who wrote this article, on many occasions his articles were taken down the basis of lack of credibility as he could not confirm his sources of news which made his article just a piece of fiction. Moreover, this was not the first time something like this has happened, on many occasions, his articles relating to the subject matter has been taken down. In today’s world, fake news is only strengthening its root which is causing havoc in the whole system of democratic structure. The communal news which is inserting hate in the mass’s ideology is another problem. The question is that a respected journalist keeps on doing unethical practices without any consequences and if there is a way to fix this broken system. The answer is simple, more autoreactive power to regulatory bodies to take strict action which will set a deterrence effect in motion which will help in keeping the journalism attached with its ethical roots.
The third and the last hurdle which the author believes is separate statutory laws governing the domain of media, for instance, The Press and Registrations of Books Act 1867, The Press Council Act 1977, The Delivery of Books and Newspapers Act 1954, The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees Act 1955, Advertising Laws under ASCI, etc; a distributed power to govern the same subject matter leads to disruption of law as it creates an arcane system which perplexes the masses in understanding which statutory law deals with the different aspect of the same subject matter law. The simple answer to this problem is the Codification of all media laws. For understanding codification, we first have to understand code, which if we take its dictionary meaning defines it as a systematic collection of statutes, the body of law, so arranged as to avoid inconsistency and overlapping. For example, the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Civil Procedure Code, etc are codified laws, the most recent codification of law is Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016. Therefore, codification is the systematic process and reduction of the whole body of law into a code in the form of enacted law. In Media laws, the different regulatory and self-regulatory body passes guidelines for their respective boundary of powers, for instance, PCI passes guidelines only for press media while News Broadcasting Standards Authority passed a code of ethics for televised news sources which creates a distributed power for the same subject matter which leads to confusion when it comes to execution of such guidelines. The codification of media laws will present the following advantages:
- Codification leads to the certainty of governing laws as it moves the focus out of distributed statutory laws and precedents and packs the law in a systematic manner.
- The codification makes law simple, accessible, and understandable to everybody. By codification law on any particular point is made accessible and known to everyone, so that the citizen come in a position to know their rights and duties well.
- Codification leads to the arrangement in a logical and coherent manner as it ensures there is no conflict arising among the different provisions of the law on the same subject matter.
- It provides for stability, that encourages people’s confidence in it and the legal transaction may be made easily.
- Codification brings uniformity, which in turn helps in the planned development of the country.
- Codified Law has a uniform and wider application. This helps in developing affinity and unity among the people, who are governed by the same laws.
The author believes that India is in dire need of having the media laws codified under one umbrella which facilitates more autoreactive power with penalization power to the regulatory bodies. With that, there is a need for licensing the professional course of journalism on the basis of an examination just like the profession of law which will help in the betterment of standards in journalism, as the media is failing in their social responsibility to the nation. As marvellously put by Hon’ble J. M. Katju “Freedom of the media is a double-edged weapon; it can both help society, and also damage society”, with a lack of regulation the new trend is only dragging media standard in the dark ages of falsified news which is enraging communal violence. Thus, with codified media laws, India will take a step towards modernization and will restore the long lost ethical-moral back to the journalism profession.
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