The Union government told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that it did not support media trials, but statutory and self-regulatory guidelines for the print as well as electronic media already exist. It also said that the Supreme Court had accepted the role of the National Broadcasters Association, a private body, as a regulatory authority for TV news channels, and the Supreme Court has also held that the media freedom should not be interfered with.
The High Court had asked earlier if there is any statutory mechanism to regulate the content broadcast by electronic media. A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing a bunch of PILs seeking that the media, particularly news channels, be directed to be restrained in their reportage on the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
The petitioners, which included some former senior police officers, said that news channels were conducting a media trial into the case by presuming the guilt of the accused. On Wednesday, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the Union government, said that while statutory guidelines already existed for TV news content, it was perhaps required to see if there was anything missing in these guidelines.
"We do not seek to justify media trial. All courts have condemned media trial. We accept that position," ASG Singh said. "There is an existing statutory framework which covers electronic media. News broadcasters also have self regulatory guidelines....Also, the SC was informed about the NBA model which was accepted. They accepted that media should not be interfered with," Mr Singh said.
He also referred to the SC's judgement in the Sahara case where it had held that it was a fundamental paradigm of freedom of speech that media must be free from governmental control in the matter of "content" and censorship and free speech were "sworn enemies". HC will continue hearing the government's arguments in the case on Friday.
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