Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the government may soon finalise norms related to the media’s coverage of terror-related operations, adding that the issue is under the Centre’s “serious and very advanced consideration”.
Delivering the first Justice J S Verma Memorial lecture on ‘Freedom and Responsibility of Media’ organised by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), Jaitley also said that technology has ended the era when media organisations were either gagged or censored.
The Minister also asked the media to introspect on how to report on high-profile cases where the privacy of individuals was affected, and cautioned against a parallel, media trial in such situations.
On the coverage of terror-related incidents, Jaitley said, “Our security agencies and the Ministry of Defence are clearly of the view that this cannot be allowed. And, therefore, during the limited duration when the security operation is on, a very strict discipline on the kind of reporting which is to take place from the place of the incident will have to be maintained.”
Following reports that the live coverage of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai had helped those handling the gunmen, the Home Ministry had asked the I&B Ministry to amend rules so that live coverage of anti-terror operations by TV channels were banned.
On the issue of censorship, Jaitley said that technology has made any such move impossible. “Assuming that there was emergency imposed today under Article 352 of the Constitution, the impact of the censorship would be nil. The satellite itself defies geographical boundaries,” he said.
Cautioning against media trials, Jaitley said that courts come under “tremendous pressure” in high-profile cases because of the magnitude of the media coverage.
Against the backdrop of Sunanda Pushkar’s death and her husband Shashi Tharoor coming under intense scrutiny, Jaitley said media should introspect on how to report on areas where the privacy of individuals is involved.
“As these areas which have absolutely no bearing to larger public interest only add some spice to the content, the media will have to seriously introspect,” he said.
However, the Minister clarified that there cannot be a gag on the media simply because an issue is being heard in court. “But if it is an issue relating to individual culpability, the parallel trial concept prejudices the entire environment around which a person is to get justice,” Jaitley said.