Recent Scenario of Freedom of the Uncodified 4th Pillar of the Indian Constitution: The Freedom of Press

Recent Scenario of Freedom of the Uncodified 4th Pillar of the Indian Constitution: The Freedom of Press

Author :- Hely Kikani

The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away.” –Thomas Jefferson

Introduction:

The freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media & published materials is freedom of the press.  Although such freedom often means the absence of overreaching state intervention, its preservation may also be sought after constitutional or other security. A Free Press stands amongst the Government’s great interpreters and the individual. To permit it to be fettered is to fetter over selves. ‘Freedom’ suggest absence of control, interference or restrictions. Hence, the expression ‘Freedom of press’ means the right to print and publish with none interference from the state or the other public authority. But this, Freedom, like other freedoms, can’t be absolute however is subject to well-known exceptions acknowledge within the public interests, which in India are enumerate in Article. 19 of the Indian constitution.

Current Scenario of Press:

Press is one of a democracy’s foundations, as it serves as a watchdog of the 3 political bodies. Nevertheless, freedom of speech &expression (including the press) is enjoyed by the people, but there are also cases in which the press still faces problems.                                  

1. In the past, in the Tehelka Case, Tehelka’s site Tehelka.com was forced to pack up fully and its journalists were constantly threatened as journalists revealed the ‘scam’ inside the ministry of defence involving ex-defence personnel and ministers of central government. There are several cases where every now and then journalists have been harassed & even attacked.

2. The Kerala police have lodged a FIR against the editor in chief of Zee News Sudhir Chaudhary. Chaudhary talked about “types of jihad” on his show’s March 11 episode, using a flow chart that he copied from a Facebook page. While Chaudhary claims to have “exposed inconvenient facts, “he has been criticized for Islamophobia, bigotry and vilification of the Muslim community for his show and the episode in question.

3. Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief and owner of Republic TV, said during a complaint at NM Joshi Marg police station that the violent  attack took place at Ganpatrao Kadam Marg around 12:15am when he and his wife were returning home from a studio in Bombay Dyeing Complex in Lower Parel. Both of them were unhurt. The attackers were carrying a bottle of ink that they threw on his car. Goswami’s security guards, who were behind in another car, caught hold of the 2 persons and handed them over to the NM Joshi Marg police. In his complaint, Goswami pointed fingers at the Congress. In a video posted after the alleged attack, Goswami said he was told by his security guards that the attackers were Youth Congress workers.

Freedom of press:              

It is essential for the preservation of the democratic way of life that individuals should have the freedom to express their feelings and form their views known to the general public. The press, a robust mass communication medium, should be free to play its role in building a healthy, viable society. Denying citizens freedom of the press would in essence undermine the ability to influence the public Freedom of the press is not expressly stated in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution and there is only freedom of speech and expression which is stated. Dr. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, made it abundantly clear during the Constituent Assembly Debates that no special mention of freedom of the press was required in any way because of the press and a private or a citizen were the identical as far as their right of expression was concerned.

The primary aim of the Free Press Guarantees is to establish a fourth institution outside the Government as an additional check on the three official branches:-

  • Executive.
  •  Legislative.
  •  Judiciary

It is the primary function of the press to provide comprehensive and objective information on all aspects of the country’s social, economic and political life.

The press is used by government leaders as an effective tool to influence and as a way to keep the elected officials accountable to the people they were elected to represent.

In Indian Express Newspapers v/s Union of India, it has been held that the freedom of press is the heart of the social and political intercourse. The purpose of the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate can’t make responsible judgments. Freedom of press has three essential elements. They are:

1. Freedom of access to all sources of information,

2. Freedom of publication, and

3. Freedom of circulation.

In Romesh Thaper vs State of Madras and Brij Bhushan vs State of Delhi, The Supreme Court took it for granted the fact that the freedom of the press is an integral part of the right to freedom of speech and expression. This was observed by Patanjali Sastri J. in Romesh Thaper that freedom of speech and expression included propagation of ideas which is ensured by freedom of circulation, as a publication is of little value without circulation.

India in the word press freedom index 2020:

India has slipped two ranks on 142 out of 180 countries in the world press freedom index 2020. The study said the fall was due to a media blackout in J&K, and “coordinated hate campaigns” targeting journalists on social networks.

Government had approved a panel of senior officials from the ministries of Information and Broadcasting, external affairs and journalists who will look at potential ways to improve India’s ranking at the World Press Freedom Index.

Reporters without Borders (RWB) publishes this Index of Rights annually since 2002. Reporters without Borders (RWB) is an international NGO headquartered in Paris, and has consultative status with UNESCO, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Francophonie International Organization. The World Press Freedom Index is focused on a worldwide repression of freedom of the press.

The parameters to decide the Press freedom include:-

1 Independence of media

2. Pluralism

3. Media environment and self-censorship

4. Legislative framework

5. Transparency of the news

6. Quality of the infrastructure supporting the production of news and information.

Why has Indian ranking fallen in the World Press Freedom Index 2020?

1. Coordinated hate campaigns on social media targeting journalists

2. Constant violations of the right to freedom of the press. It means the media have not been allowed to say what they wanted to say.

3. Police violence against journalists, and attacks and threats against journalists for not adhering to the ideology of government. In some cases there have also been politically motivated arrests of the media house member.

CONCLUSION:

According to Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, “The role of journalism should be service. The Press is a great force, but just as an unchained torrent of water overflows the whole countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy.” As we discussed above the Press acts as the fourth pillar of a democracy. The press has played a lot of important roles in the delivery of justice, public welfare etc. It is also clear that the right to freedom of speech and expression entails the right to publish and distribute one’s ideas, opinions and other views freely and through all available means of publication. Freedom of press does not mean that they can publish anything without proper information. Also, there are many instances where journalists were threatened & even assaulted at times.  And this year India tripped rank in world freedom of press due to constant press freedom violation by hate campaigns against journalist. After publication of index Indian government approve a panel who will look different ways to improve the position of India in the Index. After facing all these difficulties press still plays an important role in providing accurate information to every individual and help to the people to get justice. Thus we can say that press plays an important role in our democratic nation and can be termed as the fourth independent pillar of Indian Constitution so the freedom of press it the utmost priority to prevail to educate the citizens.

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