The Press Council of India (PCI) has sought permission from the Supreme Court to allow it to assist the top court in deciding on a petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times against the information blackout and restrictions imposed on media freedom amid the security curbs and communication shut down in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.
In her plea, Bhasin has asked the SC to ensure that an enabling environment is created for all journalists and media personnel in the state to practice their profession.
The application by the PCI, on the other hand, read, “The rights of the journalists/media for free and fair reporting are on the one hand and national interest of integrity and sovereignty on the other. Hence the applicant is of opinion that it should present its views before this court and assist the court in deciding the instant writ petition justly in the interest of the freedom of the press as well as in the national interest.”
The PCI in support of its application also cited norms of journalistic conduct Clause 23, which prescribes self-regulation in reporting by journalists in matters of sensitive national, social or individual interests.
Under Clause 23, newspapers should, as a matter of self-regulation, exercise due restraint and caution in presenting any news, comment or information which is likely to jeopardise, endanger or harm the paramount interests of the State and society, or the rights of individuals with respect to which reasonable restrictions may be imposed by law on the right to freedom of speech and expression under clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Clause 23 further states that the publication of a wrong or incorrect map is a very serious offence as it adversely affects the territorial integrity of the country and warrants prompt and prominent retraction with regrets.
The Press Council, in its plea, said the watchdog body was established for the purpose of preserving freedom of the press, maintaining and improving the standards of newspaper and news agencies in the country.
The Bar Council of India also came out in support of the PCI application. “The media today is expected to act in a manner which strengthens the country. The entire world is witnessing the biased role played by the media of Pakistan and some other nations,” said BCI chief Manan Kumar Mishra.
Mishra further said that every citizen of the country was duty-bound to protect its integrity and the media was no exception. “The Constitution has provided full freedom under Article 19, but it is subject to reasonable restrictions,” he added.
The Supreme Court had deferred the hearing of the petition on August 16, for two weeks to restore normalcy in the state.
The Centre, on August 5 revoked almost all the provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the state and bifurcated it into Union territories.