New Delhi: Saying that it was “literally impossible” to impose a ban on the media, finance minister Arun Jaitley declared on Monday that the “age of bans” was over and the State shouldn’t try and take such steps.
“Many believe, and I am one of those who do believe, that the age of bans is now over. It is literally impossible, if not very difficult, to implement them. Should the state step in? As far as possible, no,” Mr Jaitley, who is also information and broadcasting minister, said.
Mr Jaitley noted while the print media, and to some extent the electronic media, adopt discretion in their content, the social media completely lacked such a mechanism. The minister, delivering the Sardar Patel Lecture organised by All India Radio here, said while the right to freedom of expression has expanded in India through successive judicial verdicts and technological advances, its misuse still continued.
He pointed out the framers of the Constitution had rightly held that freedom of speech and expression was not absolute, and subject to reasonable restrictions that were specifically defined. Mr Jaitley said that in a changing media landscape, with the arrival of the electronic media, news had become more sensational.
“News was what television cameras could capture. What cameras can’t capture won’t be news. A major Africa summit will be some news, but a young girl returning home from Pakistan would be big news because television captures it differently,” he added.
Mr Jaitley said, “In a society where because of multi-religious, multi-cultural reasons there are sensitivities, what do we do if somebody crosses the lakshman rekha itself?
What would Indian society have done if instead of a Danish cartoonist, it would have been an Indian cartoonist? And therefore, we have criminal laws... but in extreme cases, very reluctantly so, some power of restraint in the larger interest so that it doesn’t disturb public order, and that is where those 1950s’ restrictions imposed in Article 19(2) itself will have an important role to play.”
Referring to the social media, he said while citizens have got a voice, it was an unregulated medium and there was also a large amount of false, defamatory and damaging content being made available online. In such a climate, Mr Jaitley said, we have to rely on a sense of fairness of those who participated on the social media....