Debating freedom of press and expression

The recent decision of the central government to ban NDTV India has raised concerns regarding the rights of free press in India. Mostly, people are using the ‘freedom of speech & expression’ interchangeably with the rights of a free press.

But are both one and the same?

The constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all its citizens under Article 19, which deals with protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. Clause (1) (a) of Article 19 states, “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.” Article 19(1) (a) draws inspiration from the first amendment to the United States constitution, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

However, the Indian news press enjoys the freedom to engage in the business of disseminating news to audience under the right to carry out any profession, occupation, trade, industry or business, guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g).

Complications arise when Article 19(1) (a) and (g) are read to be one and the same and even the oversight and restrictions in the interest of the ‘general public’ contemplated under Article 19(6) are ignored because of this obfuscation.

Entities such as NDTV engaged in the business of news/media are a prime source of information, helping people to cultivate opinions on the political, economic and social situation in the country. The traditional print media still retains influence and television is widely popular, but public opinion, especially of the youth, can be gauged through social networking platforms and the so-called ‘new media’.

In this way, the media continues its role as a kind of non-formal educator, helping citizens to make…

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