The Supreme Court must look into regulating digital media before electronic media when it comes to laying down standards, as it has far more impact and has the potential to go viral, the government told the top court on Thursday.
In a statement related to the top court's call for guidelines for TV channels, the government said the court must first look at digital media because of its reach and impact.
"Digital media has faster reach, potential to become viral due to apps like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook," the Centre said in its affidavit to the Supreme Court.
"Digital media has serious impact and because of its potential, the court must first take up digital media," it said.
The government also said there is "sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements" on electronic media and print media. "The issue of balancing freedom of speech and responsible journalism has already been governed by statutory provisions and judgments," it said.
"If the top court wants to undertake the exercise 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 (OTTs)," said the centre.
The government urged the top court to appoint Amicus Curiae - a friend of the court -- or a panel to assist the court in deciding on guidelines.
The centre's affidavit is linked to a case against a private TV channel, Sudarshan TV, over a show that claims "Muslims are infiltrating" government services. The show was put on hold by the court, which said it attempts to vilify Muslims. "You cannot target one community and brand them in a particular manner," the top court said on Tuesday, restraining Sudarshan TV from airing its "UPSC Jihad" episodes on the show "Bindas Bol".
In the hearing, the Supreme Court voiced concern about the race for TRPs and "sensationalism" on TV and had said it would set up a panel to suggest standards for electronic media. Journalistic freedom is not absolute, the judges said, calling for a panel of five distinguished citizens to come up with standards for electronic media.
The court's sharp observations were linked to concerns over the grisly, no-holds-barred and often ethics-challenged coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput death investigations by some channels.
When the Press Council of India said regulations are in place, Justice DY Chandrachud shot back: "Really? If things would have been so hunky-dory then we would not have to see what we see on TV every day."
The News Broadcasters Association has said in its affidavit that if any channel violates the code and is found guilty in an inquiry, it should be fined up to Rs 1 lakh.