Media and Freedom of Speech and Expression

Blog authored by Jimmy, law student from Punjab School of Law, Punjabi University Patiala

Introduction

Freedom of media is essential as it plays a very vital role in working as a link between the government and the governed.Media considered as a fourth pillar of state after judiciary, executive and legislative. In a democratic set up, when the press enjoys the privilege of reporting, it leads to put some checks on government activities. Through the media, the people get awakened about the issue and which indirectly put pressure on government to work hard and put checks on their policies.

First time, Lord Mansfield has defined the meaing of ‘liberty of press’ to mean that any thing publishing or printing without previous license, subject to law, not only unlawful or illegal.[1] The freedom of press is not confined to newspapers but also include pamphlets, circular and every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.Every people has freedom to use any website or any app without any interference. People has also freedom to watch anything according to their entertainment, no one put any check on their right, if any one has try to interfere on your right then you have power to sue on court for legal remedy.

Freedom of speech and expression

Article 19(1)(a) guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all the citizens and it also covers the freedom of the press. The press and the media enjoy their right to express their free opinion. They have right to speech and express without any fear.This fundamental right secure under Article19 with some reasonable restrictions.

Media has no special rights which are not to be given to or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in his individual capacity. But this freedom is provided under some reasonable restrictions.[2] Restrictions can be imposed only under the authority of law and it cannot be imposed by exercise of executive power, it is necessary that each restriction must be reasonable. Grounds are:

1)sovereignty and Integrity of India

2)security of the state

3)Friendly relation with foreign states                                                                     

4)public order

5)Decency or Morality

6)Contempt of court

7)Defamation

8)Incitement to an offence

It ensures that media not put any harm of any ground. If it do, then their freedom goes to an end.

Article 19(3) of the ICCPR (United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights) imposes restrictions on the following grounds:

1)for respect of the rights of others

2)for protection of public security or morals or public order

Different aspects of freedom of media

1)Circulation: freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of propagation of ideas or views which is ensured by the freedom of circulation. Volume of newspapers and price of newspapers are fixed.It not be exceed without their limits.

2)Right to reply: Every one has free to reply on any publication on contemporary to other publications.

3)Right to receive information: Every person has right to receive information like cricket lover has also right to watch cricket, right of voters has right know about the government activities.

4)Right to conduct interviews: Media has authority to conduct interviews on the consent of a person. without any authority or without consent of a person, media has not absolutely right to conduct interviews.If any prisoner ‘s person interview only held after consent of suitable authority.

5)Reporting court proceedings: Journalists has a fundamental right to attend proceedings in court and the right to publish a faithful report of the proceedings witnessed and heard in court. But they have no right to publish those things who are against to public security.

6)Right to advertise: Everyone has right to advertise anything but it is necessary that it is not unlawful or contradictory to law. E.g. advertisement of any drug is unlawful. No one has to advertise it.

7)Right to broadcast: Everyone has right to invent new technology and communication tools.[3] But it is mandatory to show that it is not harmful for our society.

8)Telephone Tapping: the freedom of speech and expression means the right to express one’s opinions and convictions freely by word mouth, writing, printing, picture or any other manner.

Why we need reasonable restrictions on freedom of media?

In Daily life, media get a significant position in our life. Without it, we can’t be imagine our like an electricity. It has great platform to put some restrictions on government activities and make a watch-dog. But extremely use of media, take great adverse effect of our life. Rumors of any news easily spread through out the world in some seconds. It takes difficulty on the way of welfare’s society. Judiciary put some restrictions on time to time. Information technology act, 2000 made for cybercrime and electronic commerce. During covid-19, rumors are easily spread through broadcast. It takes a big difficulty to every person.

So if Constitution provides absolutely freedom to media, that is harmful for our country. so it is necessary to put some reasonable restrictions on media.

Brij Bhushan v. state of Delhi[4]

 Popularly known as ‘THE ORGANISER CASE’ in which supreme court held that imposition of pre-censorship on publication is violative of freedom of speech and expression but it justified under clause (2) of article 19. It consider under reasonable restrictions.

Who can impose reasonable restrictions?

The reasonable restrictions upon the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms may be imposed by any of the authorities who are included in the definition of ‘state’ in Article 12 of the Indian constitution[5] who are competent to make a “law”. The law which has been referred here is as understood in the wider sense referred in Article 13(3)(a) of the constitution[6].The executive cannot impose any restriction upon any of the fundamentals freedoms without legislative authority.

Conclusion

With the passage of time and new developments in technology, media showed a drastic change in our life. It has adverse effects on our society. E.g. Media has great influenced our youth. Recently Indian actor sushant singh rajput died by suicide. 2-3 follower of him also got suicide due to great influence of media on their life. But misused of media, it mainly needs to government interference  on the activities of media and supreme court act as a guardian for maintaining law in our society.


[1] king v. Dean of the state Asaph, (1784) 3 TR 428

[2] Article 19 clause (2) to (6)

[3] making new websites and launches new apps e.g. whatsapp ,  facebook etc.

[4] A.I.R. 1950 S.C. 129

[5] Article 12 says-“In this part, unless the context otherwise requires ‘the state’ includes the Government and Parliament of India and the Government and Legislature of each of the states and all local or others authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.”

[6] Article 13(3)(a) says- Law includes any ordinance, order, by-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usage having in the territory of India the force of law.

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