A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction that no First Information Report (FIR) should be registered against journalist or media houses until a sanction for the same is approved by either the Press Council of India (PCI) or a judicial body nominated by the apex court.
To buttress his point, the petitioner Ghanshyam Upadhyay who is also an advocate, made reference to the FIRs registered against the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and Zee Media Corporation Ltd, for allegedly inciting hate between two religious communities.
“It is relevant to mention that the Republic TV and Zee News during the spread of pandemic and consequent lockdown in the country telecast news on their respective TV channels and exposed Tablighi Jamaat/Maulana Saad responsible for spreading the deadly Covid-19 virus all over the country. Similarly, the Republic TV questioned the Congress President for maintaining complete silence after the brutal massacre of the two Hindu saints and their driver at Palghar on 16.4.2020”, the petitioner stated.
These news channels, according to the petitioner, as a matter of fact, performed their duties as responsible media, which did not violate any law for the time being in force. On the contrary, the petitioner stated, these two channels, which are being targeted now by a certain section of people, and political party by telecasting such programmes performed their professional responsibility and duty toward the country and its people and responsibility of journalism.
According to the averments made in the petition, the petitioner is “extremely disturbed and anguished on account of the growing tendency of certain people in power or their supporters of resorting to suppress/ oppress and gag the media by initiating false and frivolous FIRs, merely because, media exposed anti-national activities of these people and their supporters, which are not liked by these people/their supporters”.
Petitioner added that he being an alert citizen of the country is interested to see free, independent and fearless media, which is the fourth pillar of our democracy, is not subjected to harassment/oppression at the instance and behest of anti-national elements who have been relentlessly working to destabilise/destroy the country and even partition the country once again and who find media like the Republic TV and Zee News huge stumbling blocks in the way of such elements/ their supporters.
“It is the duty of the petitioner as a citizen of India and as an Advocate, to ensure that patriotic and nationalistic media like the Republic YV and Zee News are not suppressed and their voice is not gagged”, the petitioner said.
The petitioner went on to state that the group/sect of this anti-national element have occupied prominent places even in media and with the result, at present even media seems to be divided into two groups inasmuch as while one group is that of a patriotic and nationalists and have been from time to time exposing the anti-national elements and their anti-national activities and sinister design of sabotaging and partitioning the country, however, the other group is acting on the lines of anti-national elements.
According to Upadhyay, his right to information enshrined under Article 19 1(A) is adversely affected due to the actions taken against the print and electronic media. To effectively exercise the right of free speech and expression and for forming opinion it is necessary to have an impartial journalist in the country who can perform their duty without fear.
“If some guidelines, as prayed for are not laid down by the court, there is every possibility of disgruntled element resorting to silence/crush and suppress media by entangling them in false, frivolous and vexatious FIRs..”, the petitioner said.