The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Central government over a public interest litigation that seeks to regulate Indian media with a body that handles complaints against platforms spewing communally incendiary news, hate speech, and fake information. The plea also sought the setting up of a panel to review the legal framework related to the media business.
Taking note of the litigation, a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian has sought also responses from the Press Council of India, News Broadcasting Standards Authority, New Broadcasters Federation, Press Trust of India, and the News Broadcasters Association on the matter.
The litigation filed by filmmaker Nilesh Navlakha and civil engineer Nitin Memane says self-regulation cannot solve the present situation in the media.
"Unregulated media promotes hate speech and fake news and violates citizens Right to Fair Information under Article 19...There has to be a balance between the right to freedom of speech and expression of the media business and the competing right to information of the citizens," it pleads.
It sought the setting up of an independent committee headed by either by a former Chief Justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court to review the legal framework related to media business regulations and also to suggest guidelines.
The plea highlighted "the lack of accountability" on part of electronic media channels, which "have the power and impetus to set the country ablaze" with their hateful and "fissiparous discourse".
"Over the past few years, media trials, hate speech, propaganda news, and paid news have become the order of the day, thereby, impeding the right to a fair trial of victims and right to fair and proportionate reporting," it said.
It is submitted that reckless reportage of events by the electronic media without accountability can, by no stretch of imagination, be in consonance with its right to freedom of speech and expression.