Editors’ Guild protests Delhi HC order on sting operation censorship

December 15th, 2007 - 7:56 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Dec 15 (ANI): The Editors Guild of India is surprised and shocked by the suggestion of a bench of the Delhi High Court to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to consider formation of a three member govenrnment committee to pre censor sting operation programmes of television channels.
If implemented, this suggestion of the Court would introduce a draconian, judicially backed Emergency by the backdoo.r and would trample the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
While the Guild is in total agreement that sting operations should have stringent pre-telecast self regulatory and internal checks in news organisations, and they should be done only when public interest demands, the remedy suggested by the Court is a deadly one.
It would sound the deathknell of the freedom of the press enjoyed by the citizens of our democracy and exdrcised through the newspapers, television channels and other media. A simple test to check whether a country has genuine demcoracy is to find out if there is pre censorship. India would cease to be a democracyh, if there is precensorship of news.
The Court has suggested the committee should be headed by a retired Judge, and should have two government employees, including a police officer, to view the tapes and decide whether it should be aired. Obviously such a committee would be controlled by the government of the day. This is not acceptable in any democratic set up.
The Guild is in favour of the news organisations having their own internal mechanism to decide on the public utility of a sting operation. The Code of Practice for Journalists of the Guild, which was updated in August 2007 is categoric about sting operations: It states: “Information should not be obtained through the use of clandestine listening and photographic devices or by intercepting private conversations. Or through misrepresentation or subterfuge (popularly described as sting operations) except when justified only in public interest and when information cannot be obtained by any other means.”
The Guild is optimistic that the judicial authorities who have asked the Information & Broadcasting Ministry to constitute a censorship panel headed by a retired Judge and having a bureaucrat and a policeman to censor television footage, would withdraw this order as it imperils freedom of the press and gives powers of court decreed censorship to the government. The Guild also expects the government and the Parliament not to implement this suggestion as it violates the freedom of speech and freedom from censorship guaranteed by the Constiution. Media and civil society organisations should moblise public opinion against any such onslaught on the media which will bring censorship by the backdoor.
The Guild exhorts all print and electronic media organistions to completely implement the Code of Practice of the Guild and pay special attention to the Practice to be adopted regarding sting operations. Every Editor should have an infallible inhouse mechanism which will critically examine every sting operation, so that there is no repitition of the shameful and harmful fake sting operation against Uma Khurana, a Delhi school teacher.
Only wnen the media’s self regulatory mechanism is in full operation, media can resist any onslaught on its freedoms by those who wield authority in the three organs of the state. (ANI)

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