Freedom of speech ‘most abused’


Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 8

Describing the Centre’s affidavit on media reporting of the March event of the Tablighi Jamaat in the Capital as “evasive” and “brazenly short in details”, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked it to file a fresh one.

“Freedom of speech is one of the most abused freedoms in the recent times,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said while hearing a petition filed by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an Islamic body in India, which accused the media of communalising the Tablighi Jamaat event and demonising the Muslim community.

Plea on Media giving communal colour

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind moved the Supreme Court on April 6, alleging the nature of media reporting of the Tablighi Jamaat event led to demonising the entire Muslim community in India.

SC: How can you say no bad reporting?

The affidavit is evasive and says the petitioner shows no instance of bad reporting. You may not agree, but how can you say there is no instance of bad reporting?

The top court — which had refused to restrain the media from reporting on the alleged role of the Tablighi congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in the Capital in spreading Covid-19 — took strong exception to the affidavit filed by a junior officer that said there were no instances of “bad reporting” of the event.

Terming the affidavit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as “extremely evasive” and “brazenly short in details”, the top court sought to know from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as to why was the affidavit filed by a junior-level officer.

“You cannot treat the court how you are treating it. The affidavit is by some junior officer. The affidavit is evasive and says the petitioner shows no instance of bad reporting. You may not agree, but how can you say there is no instance of bad reporting shown? Secretary of the (I&B) department must file an affidavit,” the Bench said.

The court wanted to know about the laws that can be used to check misuse of media freedom.

Terming the attacks on health workers by some sections after the Tablighi congregation a matter that could not be censored, the Centre said censoring news would be contrary to free speech guaranteed under the Constitution. Defending media freedom, the affidavit said dissemination of facts, even though they might appear to be offensive or distasteful to certain individuals or sections of society, could not be curtailed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.



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