Centre on Digital Media: It has asked the top court to appoint Amicus Curiae or a panel to assist. (File)
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, the government has told the top court.
In a statement on laying down standards for electronic media ahead of a hearing today, the government has said that 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 and Facebook,” says the Centre’s affidavit to the Supreme Court.
“Digital media has serious impact and because of its potential, the court must first take up digital media,” it says.
The government also says there is “sufficient framework and judgments” 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 says, adding that electronic media is governed by earlier cases and precedents.
The government has also 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. On a petition, the show was put on hold by the court on grounds that 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 Tuesday 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.