Author: Vivek Kumar
The matter is in high term debate at the international level ranging to the regional level that how much freedom of speech vested for Print, social and visual media. According to the recent data generated by Press Freedom Index Scandinavian countries are again occupying the top notch where Syria, Turkmenistan, Somalia are lying at the last positions out of 179 countries comprising index. It is indeed a subject area that needed to be concerned for, where countries having almost no freedom of speech and also about the civilian population, where they are ailing of civil wars from many years. During last year ( 2013 ) the data came out with the death of around 120,000 people (Alliance News, 25 September 2013) and the gloomy situation is tend to be obscured from the denizens by rigging the press and media. One side the policy paralysis and on another side international political whims, containing basket of troubles for some countries who seek support from the developed nations. Despite being a developed nation and world’s one of the fastest growing economy and an alternate to the first world country China too is lagging far back in the index with the rank 173rd out of 179. India is also not doing well in the case where country is dropped more by 9 ranks and stood on 140, resulted due to the recent impunity for increasing violence against journalists and censorship of internet. Even many African countries managed to secure a far better place than India. It could be taken as, we cannot take vouched assurance from an index and rely on the data for the freedom of speech but still even if we would have done better than it also would be visible in the mainstream media.
Now the issue arises, whether freedom of speech as ensured by the fundamental rights of India under Art. 19(1) however not mentioning the word “press”, is well delivered and brings to justice where it has been breached? Contrarily to the issue there are also the incidents where the freedom of press and media is highly misused, where several incidents were occurred when it has been used to spread hatred and unrest in the society.
When the part of a speech has been played then people forget to make a distinction between raising voice and criticism. Recently, Election Commission filed the cases against some political echelons as per the code of conduct against hate speech; quoting freedom of speech does not mean hate speech. What next? Either judiciary is unable to justify the acts or waiting for some more deft analysis in the context. United States constitution envisaged as in First amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” But the plaintiff cannot seek asylum under the law if the expression is turned into a hate speech thus keeping out the “freedom” of speech from the ambit of first amendment. The same legal distinction is needed to be evolved out form the constitution of India where there would be a preeminent position of constitution interpreting the definition of freedom of speech in respect to media.
Past few years have witnessed the role of media ( print, social) as an evolving institution as a new domain of the society. The hyperactive media too created chaos in the normal functioning of the social system. The highly hyped issue of Arushi murder case, 2008 is an apt example of media hyper activism where it was seemed working more diligently and faster than CBI even. Where it has been seen as a moral and ethical part of media there also were the intelligentsia who quoted it as its hyper activism, leading to the rebuked expression from the judiciary and police. Then the onus comes on the part of social media, hitherto where public was relying on print and visual media, has now a new source of ‘information’ which is highly influenced and more capricious than ever since in the name of social media. The country noticed the recent changes due to ultra-influence of social media even on the mundane issues. Where we see the information and movements regarding the social welfare of all the biotic and abiotic components of the planet and also witnessed the uprising against despotic rules for installing democracy. Egypt, Tunisia uprising is the most recent instance where people toppled the despotic totalitarian giants to install democracy. Contrarily to the amiable outcomes of the social media, India is also ailing with the misinformed and conniving acts to spread unrest in the society. Mujjafarnagar riots are the most recent example, earlier the NE people exodus, Hyderabad and Mumbai riots which were fostered by the hatred pertinent information and whims of some miscreants of the society.
The year 2012 was in news regarding the censorship of social media when amended IT Act 2000 comes in light. Indian Cyber law was being interpreted and invoked in a manner so as to detrimentally impact social media and inherent online liberties of netizens. Throughout the year 2012, there was inherent tension amongst social media platforms against the efforts were made to regulate and censor social media. Various cases happened in the country which further led to consolidation of the thought process that efforts have been made so as to muzzle social media. Few cases had been registered under the Act viz Ravi srinivasan case where allegedly he posted some defamatory content and then against the employees of Air India for allegedly derogatory remarks against prime minister of India, national flag and supreme court and then again the arrest of 2 girls for uploading ‘derogatory’ statements against Shiv sena Supremo’s death. Consequently, Public Interest Litigations against challenging the constitutionality of Section 66A was filed in the Madras High Court as also in the Allahabad High Court. Thereafter, Public Interest Litigation was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India by a law student before the Supreme Court of India challenging the constitutional validity of Section 66A of the amended Information Technology Act, 2000 (economic times). Even after the so much uproar over the section and if to see a genuine side of censoring internet the policy makers are acting perfunctorily without paying heed to the issue.
The need of hour is to protect the freedom of speech not exactly with the cut it loose on its expression but by providing protection to those people who express it in a genuine and a pure manner without any ill will and that distinction can be carried out only by government structure which should be diligent in the manner of its conduct. Authorities are needed to be more vigilant for the protection of the journalists who are working as the torch bearers of truth for the people of the country. The issue of crime against media persons has become more discerning where according to the London-based International News Safety Institute (INSI) the toll of murders reached 13 in the only year 2013 marking India at the 4th position in the most dangerous country for journalists. So, another encumbered issue lying for the protection of media persons that is demanding a strong law and facilities for their protection.
The main stream issue is the freedom of speech whether in form of social or print media. Where we see its censorship or certain criminal incidents against the journalists, the whole egression of the degrading freedom of speech is not only an issue on the part of law and order but also to the understanding of civil population. This is to be taken care by the public only that what part of a speech is in the sense of awareness and what is in derogatory to their wellbeing. According the classical approach of slow process of development it is not though an apt process of equating the developing countries, developing economies and society with developed ones. But still as per the global part and as also we are the part of the system the need of the hour is to aware people about not only for their rights but also about the distinction in them. If we see the freedom of speech index, the top rankers are the countries with more developed social structure and mindset regarding the expression. We must admit the impediment that our society is not yet ready for such high level freedom as per promised by developed countries. Censorship is a necessary tool in the hands of government which may create a situation for civil society uneasy currently but it will certainly serve a better good in the near future. The arrest of the problem of crime against media persons is as important as to remove the slow and subtle carked mental consciousness of the people of the country who are prone to the led astray and create another chaos in the country. So there is a need of patience in the process and development of temper between the masses, that could enhance the people’s understanding and broaden their thinking capacity for taking a pragmatic view of the matter.