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Media As A Legal Framework- An Analysis


In this modern hot and chase world, Media, without a doubt plays a very important role in a participatory democracy by informing people about all the happenings within the surroundings, the truth and the situations they reside in. Media law is not an uniform and integrated body of law like the law of contract or the law of crimes. Moreover, in today’s world Media in our lives play a very crucial role in human mind as we are surrounded by all kinds media devices which include radio, television, mobile and internet. The concept of mass communication was defined during the late 19th century, which is indeed associated with media. Along with that the technological development and the increased needs of the society, which make it possible to create a new media as media has become an irreplaceable parcel to the modern human life, furthermore, media creates, moulds and develops the public opinion to a large extent in a democratic society.[1]

As said, Media not plays an important role within the society but it also functions as watchdog over the activities of government and as such they are subjected to certain specific regulations based upon the common values such as the freedom of expression, pluralism, copyright protection, promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity and as a result in most of the democratic countries these regulators serves mainly two important purposes which are the overseeing the allocation of broadcast frequencies and secondly to develop codes and ethics to deal with various broadcast practice topics.[2]

In a democratic society, the most important source of raising the voice of masses is through media and it creates an impact not only regionally but in respect of the whole international arena. For instance, the atrocities in Syria got worldwide support through media and as such free media in any democratic society is an oxygen to the existence of free will and to unearth the hidden truth.

Media- Under the Indian Constitutional Framework of India:

The legal framework of the freedom of press in India has been in true sense inspired by various international bodies such as the United Nations, US constitution and the British Constitution. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its charter under Article 19 clearly stated that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and right to seek and impart information through any medium regardless of the frontier”.[3]

With this there in the constituent assembly debate, there was an urge to include freedom of press as a separate Article but the framers of the Indian Constitution were well aware of the fact that absolute freedom to media may become very disastrous and as such Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the drafting committee stated : “ the press is merely another way of stating an individual or a citizen. The press has no special rights which are not to be given or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in his individual capacity. The Editor of a press or a Manager are all citizens and therefore when they choose to write in the news paper, they are merely exercising their right of expression and therefore no special mention is necessary of the freedom of press at all”.[4]

Earlier from the time of struggle of Independence Media has been a catalyst and there developed various trends during that period of time as various laws were proposed and even implemented during the colonial period which are:-
# The Press and Registration of Books Act
# Vernacular Press Act, 1878
# Telegraphic Act, 1885
# The Newspaper (Incitement to an offence) Act,1905
# Copyright Act,1911
# Cinematographic Act,1918
# Indian Press Act, 1910[5]

In the Indian context, though, Media has developed leaps and bounds but at certain times it has struggled to surface its freedom and in that regard, The Indian Judiciary played a very pivotal role in interpreting Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. At the first sight, in the case of Sakal Newspaper Pvt Ltd vs Union of India[6]in which there was constitutional validity challenge of the Newspaper (Print and Page) Act, 1956 which empowered the government to regulate the price of paper in relation to their pages and size but the Honourable Supreme Court held that the State cannot make any law which would directly affect the circulation of a newspaper as it would amount to violation of the fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. In yet another case ofIndian Express Newspaper Ltd vs Union of India[7]where there was a challenge to the working journalist (condition of service) and miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1956 on the ground that it violates Article 19 (1)(a).

The Act was impunged to regulate the service conditions of the working journalist and other persons employed in the newspaper establishment. The Honourable Supreme Court in this case came to the conclusion that the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 was enacted for the amelioration of the conditions of those employed in the newspaper industry and that any impact of the legislation on the right to freedom of speech and expression as complained by the petitioners was far too remote and incidental to warrant a striking down of the legislation. Moreover, that the government has no monopoly over the electronic media and an Indian citizen has the right to telecast and broadcast the viewers through media has been also held by the Supreme Court in the case of Minister of Information and Broadcasting vs Cricket Association of Bengal.[8]

Besides this, the concept of “right to know” under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution was also interpreted by the Judiciary in the case ofSmt Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain[9], where Justice KK Mathews in his concurring Judgement observed that “In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can, at any rate, have no repercussion on public security. To cover with veil of secrecy, the common routine business is not in the interest of the public. Such secrecy can seldom be legitimately desired. It is generally desired for the purpose of parities and politics or personal self-interest or bureaucratic routine. The responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption”. [10]Moreover in the case of S.P. Gupta vs Union of India[11], where Justice Bhagwati held that, “no democracy can survive without the transparent and accountable information”.[12]

From this, it is quite evident that not only the Constitution of India makes the existence of freedom of media but in reference to the Indian context it is equally supplemented by the Judicial Activism which clearly establishes Right to Freedom of Press under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

Media- Under the International Legal Framework:

The term Media Freedom is often used along with other terms such as “ Freedom of Speech” and “Freedom of Expression” but the protection of media becomes more necessary in the context that it works as public watch dog and helps to disseminate information and ideas which inturn guarantees the right of public to seek and receive information.[13]

In the International arena, the Universal Decleration of Human Rights under Article 19 which reads as“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”, played an instrument role in understanding the role for protection of Media, besides this the European Convention on Human Rights also enrishes it under Article 10which states Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.

This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises and the exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.[14]Alongside this, the ICCPR in Part III under Article 19 also gurantees Freedom of expression and there various regional standards which also protects the freedom of media in their drafts such the American Convention on Human Rights and Amsterdam Recommendation- Freedom of Media and the Internet.[15]

Role of Media in a Democratic Society - As a Promoter and Protector of Human Rights:

In a modern democratic world the socio-political life would be impossible without the existence of mass media and as result they are often recognized as “fourth pillar” of democracy along with the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary. Media law as branch legal science, which regulates the activities the principles of dissemination of media products and on the other handcan affect the format and content of media products. Some regulations apply only to specific types of media. For example, there are broadcasting laws that apply only to the activities of broadcast media. More general legal provisions are to be respected by all media.[16]

The media not only regulates the public opinion but at the same it time it work as a protector of Human Rights and also unhide the reality by exposing corruption and also with its impact and wide reach it helps to mobilize people and raise awareness which can be seen by certain examples which are:
# Wide Reach- Rohingya Crisis, Syria Violence, Jessica Lal Murder Case
# Strong Impact- Nirbhaya Case, CWG Scam, 2g Spectrum
# Raises Awareness- Cricket Betting Scandal 1999, Mob Lynching and IAC movement
# Ability to mobilize people and Create Awareness- NRC issue in Assam
From this it is quite evident that Media through its freedom has been able to chalk out important issues and bring it to the public dominion which has really impacted the Nation at large.

Thus to conclude, Media protection takes a very pivotal position because of the special role such as to work as public watchdog as well as the assurance to disseminate the information to the public in general and it is a fact that Media is the main cornerstone for open and participatory democracy.

Moreover, the freedom to express to one’s ideals and to hold an opinion is an important pre requisite for political process in a democratic society and it national level it is important for good government and to prosper in socio-economic process and as such without such broad gurantee of freedom of speech and expression there cannot be a free society and no democratic state.[17]

However, in the researcher’s opinion Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be upheld in democratic societies. Yet there is a worrying global trend of governments unjustifiably limiting freedom of speech, targeting journalists, protesters and other persons considered to be dissenting from government views. It is imperative that civil societies as well as the individuals across the globe are vigilant in defending freedom of expression.

1.Facets of Media Law by Madhavi Goradia.
2.Introduction to Media Law by lyudmila Handzhiyska and Cheyenne Mackay.
4.Privacy and Media Law by Sonia Makija.
5.Communication rights: Fundamental Human Rights for allby S Mcloard.
6.Media Laws in India: Origin, Analysis and Relevance in Present Scenario by Dr Archana and Dr Rahul Tripathi.

[1]Dr Archana & Dr Rahul Tripathi, “Media Laws in India: Origin, Analysis and Relevance in Present Scenario”, Volume 7 Issue 02, pp 13-15, February. 2018
[2]Ruheela Hassan, FREEDOM OF MEDIA IN INDIA – (A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE), International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (IJHSS), Vol. 3, Issue 2, Mar 2014.
[3]Sharynne McLeod,Communication rights: Fundamental human rights for all.International Journal of Speech-Language, pp 3-11, 2016.
[4]Constitutent Assembly Debates, Vol VII, Samvidhaan,
[5]Supra Note 1.
[6]AIR 1962 SC 305.
[7]AIR 1958 SC 578.
[8]AIR 1995 2 SCC 161.
[9]AIR 1975 SC 865.
[10]Sonal Makija, Privacy and Media Law,, (Jan 31, 9.40pm).
[11]AIR 1982 SC 149.
[13]Freedom of the Press in India: Constitutional and Legal Framework,, (Jan 31, 12.30am).
[15]lyudmila Handzhiyska and Cheyenne Mackay, Introduction to Media Law, Verein Freies Radio Wien.
[16]Victoria Chioma Nwankwo,THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS: An analysis of the BBC documentary, ‘Chocolate: the bitter truth’,2011,, ( Feb 1, 5.34 pm).
[17]Supra Note 1.

Media laws
Critically Analysis of Broadcasting Right & Control
Theories of Press
Advertisement and Freedom of Speech and Expression
The Times Now Case: A tussle between the media and the judiciary
Media and Victims of Sexual Assault
Freedom of Press - Article 19(1)(a)
Role of gender in food politics

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