File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

The Blurry Line Between Defamation And Role Of Media

The scope of this article extends to how media and defamation are connected with each other. This article gives an idea about how any of the information published by media can lead to defamation of the concerned person. It also includes the constitutional aspect related to media law and the responsibilities of the media.

History Of Defamation
The evolution of the concept defamation came with the continuous conflict between the protection of character and the privacy of individuals and on other hand the right to freedom of speech and expression. The seriousness of the issue was raised due to the enactment of the human rights act, 1998 which brought the rights of freedom under article 10 of European convention on human right (ECHR). With the Derbyshire country council V. Times newspaper, the need to protect someone's reputation has been given great importance under English law. Law of defamation basically gives protection from lowering someone's reputation to the public at large. But the main question is that to what extent are the words spoken or written are considered as defamation?   However the claim of defamation must prove the statement was defamatory and was published at large degrading the reputation of the concerned party. The next step will be the relevance of the claim and the statement passed. It is very necessary that defamation is correlated with the effect of the statement published at large and the relevance should be there of the claimant and the statement.

Therefore looking at the certainty of the offence, proceeding to the relation of the media   and defamation has to be approached in a sensitive way. The working of media is very responsible work and it holds a large bulk of information. Thus there is a very thin line of difference between information and defamatory statement and in this, the work of media has to be kept very precise. 

With the daily development, various sources and technologies of communication are being developed. For instance, internet has been the favourite among all in the present time, as say social media has became a huge platform for communication worldwide. Looking at the Indian perspective, in communicating to the public at large, media has played a vital role in that area. With the development in technologies, media has also been developed in its each phase. In the modern time it is very necessary that the public is made aware with the happenings of the country especially in any democratic country. Whereas to play this media has a large stake in communicating with the public at large. As said, if the tree is nurtured in a proper way then it will definitely give the proper fruit. The same way if the media is used in a proper way then it can be helpful at its extreme. Media is a platform of highest scope for communicating with people, but looking into the box of the Indian laws, some of the restricted lines are also drawn for the media. Laws of media basically speaks about the liberty and restrictions for the media of India.

In a democratic country like India there are certain fundamental right for citizen in which under Article 19(1)(a)- Right of speech and expression is one of them. This right is however subject to various restrictions under Article 19(2); defamation being one of them. However it is a universal principle that no right is absolute and right to freedom of speech and expression is no exception. Basically €˜defamation leads to the action of damaging the good reputation of someone'. While under IPC defamation is considered as an offence. If seen the other way in general terms defamation is the publication of a false and defamatory statement concerning another without just cause or excuse, whereby he suffers injury to his reputation. Further in relation to the media law, the question arises as to which production of news amounts to defamation and which holds the protection of freedom of speech and expression. Media plays a very vital role in reaching to the people through the means of news and communicating them to the public large. It is the obligation of media that whatever news they are printing or broadcasting includes a fairness in approach and doesn't have a biased approach. Within the purview of media law, one can't escape on a ground that he didn't know what to publish and what not to. Whether it is print media or broadcasting media, one has to keep in mind the publication doesn't lead to a defamatory statement. The position of a journalist leads to the same cup as they can be charged of an offence while following their role, they hold the same as others sector. The owner, compositor or word-setter, editor, publisher and the author are all responsible, because they are the bodies accepting the bunch of matters to be published. Ignorance and mistake of act can't be used as defences over here. The liability of the editor or chief editor subject to the case may be, for the publication of any news material, will depend upon the allegation and proof regarding the part played by him, in the selection and publication of a news material.

To publish is to add to the intelligence of the reader, or to inform or make known to him something. To publish a defamatory statement or any matter or any news is to make it known to any other person that the one defamed, with that even a single communication will suffice but it must have been done to a third person because to communicate a matter is technically the object of defamation which at the end amounts to defamatory statement. A defamatory matter may be communicated through a means which reaches to the other party.

However legislature gives room for the exceptions in the matters. Defamation holds the following defences- (i) plea of truth, (ii) fair comment, (iii) privilege, (iv) apology and withdrawal and (v) consent. If these are the cases then the matter or the statement doesn't lead to defamation or a defamatory statement.

Media Law And Defamation
It is very important that any of the published news is within the purview of the ethics of the media person or the journalists. One should see that the information communicated leads to truthfulness and leads the mass in a proper direction and doesn't create a negative impact. In a society the law endows every person with a right to maintain and preserve his reputation. The right of reputation is acknowledged as an inherent personal right of every person. A man's reputation is his property and perhaps more valuable than any property.

In the Bhagwad Gita, For a man of honour a defamation is worse than death €. It is considered as great evil. Reputation is a important and integral part of the dignity of individual and right to reputation is an inherent right guaranteed under article 21 and it is also called natural rights. Defamation is injury to the reputation of a person. The essence of defamation lies in the fact that it is an injury to the esteem or regard in which one is held by others.  The legal system of India constitutes defamatory statement as a offence.

Constitutional Aspect
The constitutional aspect of the media law involves to certain fundamental freedoms. There is no direct freedom given in concerned with media law but indirect freedom falls under the Article 19. This article gives the freedom of speech and if seen in relation to media, Article 19(1) enumerates the freedom of speech and expression. This fundamental right plays a very vital role in relation to the freedom of media. The right given to the media person also brings some of the restrictions to it. One can't use the right to its extreme, the other laws has to be kept with it at the time of implementation.

Case Laws
In Sakal Papers ltd. V. Union of India[1], in this case, the Daily Newspapers Order, 1960, which fixed a minimum price and number of pages, which a newspaper is entitled to publish, was challenged as unconstitutional. The state justified the law as a reasonable restriction on a business activity of a citizen. The Supreme Court struck down the order rejecting the state's argument. The court opined that, the right of freedom of speech and expression couldn't be taken away with the object of placing restrictions on the business activity of the citizens. Freedom of speech can be restricted only on the grounds mentioned in clause (2) of Article 19.
·                  In  K. A. Abbas V. Union of India[2], the petitioner for the first time challenged the validity of censorship as violative of his fundamental right of speech and expression. The supreme court however observed that, pre- censorship of films under the Cinematography Act was justified under Article 19(2) on the grounds that films has to be treated separately from other forms of art and expression because a motion picture was able to stir up emotions more deeply and thus, classification of films between two categories €˜A'(for adults only) and €˜U'(for all) was brought about.
Media Responsibility
Media has always been a leader in communicating to the people, irrespective to any forms of media. The news which is communicated by the media is at a very great influential level. Therefore any news which leads to a doubt can create a chaos worldwide. Any form of media before publishing it at public platform should properly be analysed and should not leave any doubt of conflict regarding its truthfulness. It is the moral duty of the media to serve the nation with a clear cut surety of news. Media should show the picture of the actual problem to the citizens and let them decide whether the successive step is correct or not rather than stating the conclusive statement. It is not the duty of the media to give a conclusive statement of any of the issue and make people dominate towards that statement through the circulation. Specially in a democratic nation environment, the citizens are the main pillar of the nation. Therefore any wrong impact or any influential information in a negative manner creates a great problem towards the future of the nation. Before any of the statutory rights, it a moral duty of the media to safeguard the power of media by accessing it within its ambit of jurisdiction and not creating an evil impact on the nation.

Looking towards the statutory powers, there is no €˜explicit' right given to the freedom of media. While under Article 19(1)(a) the right to freedom of speech and expression and under Article 21 the right to life and liberty is safeguarded.

Further looking at the other laws which restricts the powers of the freedom of speech and expression is under IPC; sec 499 which states the €˜defamation' compiled with sections 500,501,502 of IPC issuing to the punishment of the level of the offence committed. The statutory provisions are framed for the legal regulations to curb the regulating of the fake information to the mass. The Information Technology Act also regulates the online platform of media by framing the regulations based on the offences that are committed online. It is very important that when people at large are dependent on a social platform and is also a great source of communication then right information is released. The Information Technology Act also regulates the offences pertaining to any of the misuse of the technology which also give a hand to the use of social media. Along with the other statutory laws, the IT act should also be amended with the day by day upcoming misuse of the media. Lastly it is in the hands of media to disseminate information and in what manner such information should reach the public. The information should be open ended and not a conclusive statement that leaves any of the impression on the minds of the users.

Drawing up the conclusion, if self regulation is done by media, the responsibilities are carried as it should be then the question of legal regulations would not arise. If the situation is not within the ambit of the self regulation then the chapter of legal regulations has to be looked upon for the justification. Therefore, it is the moral as well as legal responsibility of the media to act as per the code of ethics of media in functioning of their role.

The co- relation of media and defamation cannot be concluded to the end as it is wide topic having a broad perspective. Media is a sector which is connected with each and every field, therefore it is very necessary that every aspect of the media is looked upon. With the interest in every field, it has to be seen that the information revealed is truthful and defamation does not occur. Defamation and media are two paths of the same road. The usefulness of both the terms has to be done in such a way that they don't overlap each other and as a result defamation is not committed. It is very necessary that any information made at a mass level should be beyond reasonable doubt and as media performs that stage each and every time, the role of media becomes very crucial. In a democratic country like India, journalism holds the maximum influential towards the citizens of country. Therefore, if malafide information or the slightest of doubt arises from the information telecasted then there would be an adverse impact. It has to be seen that the people forming their views based on the information telecast are not influenced adversely. Though being a wide sector, it could be concluded that defamation and media are two sides of the same coin, but the measure that should be taken is that they don't overlap each other and should perform within its self imposed limits.

[1]  1962 AIR 305, 1962 SCR (3) 842
[2]  1971 AIR 481, 1971 SCR (2) 446

About The Author
Rutu Mistry - 4th  year, L J School of law, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of th...

How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Whether Caveat Application is legally pe...


Whether in a criminal proceeding a Caveat Application is legally permissible to be filed as pro...

The Factories Act,1948


There has been rise of large scale factory/ industry in India in the later half of nineteenth ce...

Constitution of India-Freedom of speech ...


Explain The Right To Freedom of Speech and Expression Under The Article 19 With The Help of Dec...

Types of Writs In Indian Constitution


The supreme court, and High courts have power to issue writs in the nature of habeas corpus , quo...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly