Media ethics in India have been receiving a lot of attention in recent times. Media stands as a support to the whole country by providing information on different topics.
Ethics is a branch which deals with what is right and what is wrong. And so talking about media, ethics forms the basis when any information is being perceived by people over which perceptions are made by them over that particular content. Media is an indispensable pillar of democracy. It purveys public opinion and shapes it. It not only reports but acts as a bridge between the state and the public. In recent times it seems that the responsibility of mediascape to safeguard the interest of people and the state has increased manifold. And so nowadays in the era of digitalization, the Indian media is facing a lot of issues. Making it dangerous in turn.
Freedom under Article 19 of the Constitution of India
Freedom is important, so is responsibility. In-country like India, media also have a responsibility to fight backward ideas such as casteism and communalism and help the people to fight poverty and other social evils. 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.
As all the citizens of India have got the right and freedom of speech and expression as stated in our constitution. Simultaneously, freedom of the press have been treated as a part of the freedom of speech and expression.
In Romesh Thaper vs State of Madras and Brij Bhushan vs the State of Delhi, it was observed that the freedom of the press was an essential part of freedom of speech and expression. It also got cleared that the right to freedom of speech and expression carries with it the right to publish and circulate one’s ideas, opinions. The right to freedom of the press or freedom of media is a right to be exercised freely. Freedom of speech and the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations. However, it is seen that the Freedom of Press is not absolute as Article 19 (2)states reasonable restrictions can be placed on these right, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity, security of the state, decency and morality of India, etc.
In the recent case of Arnab Ranjan Goswami vs Union of India, it was observed that the exercise of journalistic freedom lies at the core of freedom of speech and expression. And it was also observed that the right of a journalist under article 19 (1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to speak and express. The reasonable restrictions take place only if it is seen that the sovereignty, integrity and security, etc of the nation is being affected.
Duties and Ethics
The media personnel must check that the reports collected are true or false. The report should be in no way to be misleading. It is their duty as also respect the privacy of any person as it the core of constitutional dignity and was also declared as the fundamental right. Spreading hatred should not be their motive. As recently, the people of Tablighi Jamat were showed in such a manner by some media channels as if they were the only reason to spread coronavirus all over. Media personnel must also look if any person is undergoing any legal proceedings, they should not prejudge them. Recently in the case of Rhea Chakraborty, as investigations are going under her, the media personnel have no right to prejudge the situation and come to a conclusion as seen by many media channels doing it. Media playing a vital role in supplying information almost about everything around should act in an unbiased way always. There have been various other cases where the media had taken the cases into their own hands and declared the accused as a convict, even much before the court had given any decision.
Trial by media is nowhere legal. There is no legal system where the media is given the authority to try a case. This slang is used for those high profile cases wherein the journalist presents a pre-decided picture of an accused and start spreading hatred amongst the general public which can ultimately affect the trial and judgement. Some famous criminal cases that would have got unpunished but for the intervention of media are Priyadarshini Mattoo case, Jessica Lal case, Nitish Katara and Bijal Joshi rape case. The media however drew flak in the reporting of Aarushi Talwar, when it preempted the court and reported her father, Rajesh Talwar and possibly her mother Nupur Talwar were involved in her murder. The CBI later declared that Rajesh Talwar was not the killer. Thus, the media affects the administration of the criminal justice system.
The Indian media consists of several other types of communications of mass media – television, radio, cinema, newspaper, magazines and internet-based websites/portals. Indian media was active since the late 18th century. Print media started as early as 1780. Radio broadcasting begins in 1927. With such evolution in media platform the media sharing their views, ideas, opinions are also increasing.
Lastly, it is seen that the media is the backbone of the nation. But with the recent scenarios, it is seen that media is spreading hatred, putting out opinions by themselves which indirectly is accepted by the general public and so we see outrages, riots, etc taking place. And so somewhere it is seen that the Indian media is being biased towards certain areas. Whenever the festival of Diwali approaches we see them guiding us not to burst crackers, during Holi not to play with harmful colours, during Bakri-eid the Muslim brothers and sisters are guided not to harm the animals. When such good advice is being given to public then why is the media being discriminated, biased towards almost everything these days. The media is expected to be true and abid to the decency, morality and ethical values put down for them.