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Does reporting news amounts to contempt of court?

by IT Web Admin
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A very relevant and anticipated report of a media briefing by a renowned senior Advocate jolted the Advocate General to cry foul and press for contempt of court for carrying the said report. While the legality of the matter is not within the purview of this editorial, what should be kept in mind is that the report is what it is- a report of a press briefing by a senior advocate regarding a closely followed procedure which is bound to incite fervent reaction whatever the outcome. “Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression” is a fundamental right of the citizens of India. This is mentioned in Part III of the Constitution of India – Article 19(1) in which the Freedom of the Press is included in Freedom of Speech and Expression. It includes the right of free propagation and free circulation without any previous restraint on publication but without the use of objectionable and obscene language which would lead to disorder and anarchy. The Article 19(2) of the Constitution imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub¬ clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India. The security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency of morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense. Whenever, emergency is declared in a country, these rights remain suspended. Having said that, almost every Government prefers to link the freedom of the press with social and fundamental responsibilities and the obligation to report objectively which is also an ethics guarded with pride and responsibility by every journalist and media person, following the principle that the press should be neither an adversary nor an ally of the Government, but a constructive critic. The press is a vital bulwark against forces of repression, corruption and other excesses, and the most vocal and effective watchdog of the society. The freedom of press is the mother of all other freedoms. Various media laws, such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, The Copy Right Act, 1957, impose restrictions on the exercise of the right of freedom of speech and expression by the press, which is under consideration to be amended to expand the scope of press freedom and at the same time to protect the right to privacy of the individual and prevent newspapers from indulging in unrestrained character assassination, as suggested by the second Press Amendment. Perhaps the observation of the court in the famous case of Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India sums up the gist of the matter: “In today’s free world freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. The press has now assumed the role of the public educator making formal and non-formal education possible in a large scale particularly in the developing world, where television and other kinds of modern communication are not still available for all sections of society. The purpose of the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate [Government] cannot make responsible judgments. Newspapers being purveyors of news and views having a bearing on public administration very often carry material which would not be palatable to Governments and other authorities.”

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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