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WHY CONFUSE STOLEN NEWS, FAKE NEWS WITH FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

By N.S.Venkataraman

An English newspaper published from south India, which is largely perceived to be anti Prime Minister Narendra Modi in publishing news and views , has prominently published some news item regarding the Rafale deal. Newspaper claimed that the matter has been sourced from the concerned ministry of Government of India and it has said that “ no force on earth can make the paper reveal the source of news”.

The matter was taken to the Supreme Court by an activist known for being vocal in expressing opinion against Modi government.

Government of India, in it’s response , said that the matter was stolen from the ministry by adopting dubious means and such stolen matter cannot be admitted by the Supreme Court to take up the issue for hearing. However, the Supreme Court rejected the contention of Government of India and said that any news already in public domain can be admitted for hearing by the court and judgement given in the due course of time. Almost every media in the country, including the English newspaper which published the stolen news , welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgement and said that the verdict is a victory for liberty of the press and freedom of speech .

The verdict of the Supreme Court has certainly sent confusing signals amongst the people across the country and some people have even said that this could be a dangerous signal, that may make the media go astray, publishing all sorts of news and views , true or otherwise , with least sense of fear , caution and responsibility.

In India today, most of the media houses are owned by business men or political parties or politicians . The distinction between the media houses and business houses are losing clarity. In the same manner, the dividing line between politicians and journalists are also becoming very thin. Most of the journalists seem to have firm political views and are no more neutral and objective in interpreting the developments .

It is well known that fake news are being planted by vested interests and fake photographs are publicised , which are prominently published in section of media without proper verification or with deliberate and mischievous motive . In such situation, the faith in the media, both print and visual media , amongst people are rapidly sliding down. Many people believe that media today is no more the media that people knew of in the earlier days immediately after independence.

It is common these days to read news and views in the media stating “our sources said”. The real source is never indicated and one would not even know whether any source of news exist at all or it is only the figment of imagination of the editor/journalist.

Media certainly need check and control and it is dangerously now moving towards the trend of publishing motivated and false news.

One would have thought that the learned judges in the Supreme Court of India would have thought more carefully about the long term implications of it’s above verdict . In recent times, we have seen many occasions when the judgements of the lower courts are over ruled by the higher courts and the judgements of higher court themselves are changed or revised or nullified by the same court later on. One only hope that Supreme Court would re consider it’s verdict , keeping several implications in mind.

It would have been more appropriate if the judges have ruled that any matter published in the newspapers and media should contain information about the source of information and data and if not, it would be a punishable act.

It is shocking that none of the senior journalists in India have objected to the above verdict of the SupremeCourt ,almost justifying the statement of the newspaper that it would not reveal the source of information.

In the earlier days, when India had journalists with courage of conviction and better objectivity, atleast some journalists would have raised objections to the above verdict of Supreme Court which make it look that limits and freedom of media is endless and boundary less.

(Author N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the “Nandini Voice for the Deprived,” a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.)

Published Date: Saturday, April 13th, 2019 | 09:19 PM

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