Friday, November 20, 2009

Freedom of Press


Those Doordarshan days, when it was fun to watch a few serials on weekdays; epics and cartoons on a Sunday and News at 9 without fail each day. Half an hour and all the happenings in the country – from politics to economy, from entertainment to sports and weather reports – were reported by those few familiar faces. Next morning, the news was the first topic of discussion with neighbours, friends and office colleagues.

These days with 20 odd 24x7 news channels making a gossip like “aishwarya rai sneezed this morning at 9:37 am” a breaking news – exclusively for you; the media has become a joke. They have special programs on what is happening in the daily soap world, who is shooting for what; who fainted on sets; whose affair is with whom etc news to carry out each day for half and hour and repeating the same telecast at least twice or thrice a day. Hardly anybody takes any news seriously now. Hardly any discussion happens over tea or anytime about most of the reports on the news channels; we suspect most of the reports shown with the mindset that the channel must have made it up to increase its TRPs. Well they have all the rights to feature what they want to feature, for our Constitution of India has given them a right to Freedom of Press.

The Constitutional Provision:

Freedom of the Press has not been expressly provided for in the Constitution, but is implicit in the Fundamental Right pertaining to the Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed to the citizens under article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. The term "Freedom of Speech and Expression", includes the liberty to propagate not only one’s views but also the right to print matters which have been borrowed from someone else or are printed under the direction of that person and also includes the liberty of publication and circulation. Every right carries with it a responsibility. Likewise, every freedom carries with it an obligation. It is primarily for the Press itself to determine what are its corresponding responsibilities and obligations.

My question is – are most of these news channels using this power wisely and fairly? Ample number of incidences whereby the fight to win the top spot among 20 odd existing news channels misused this power and didn’t try to understand the gravity of the situation.This resulted into:

  • 59 hours of struggle at the time of Mumbai Terror Attack on 26/11: the inside out report about the plan of our police, military and fire brigade plans and positions helped the terrorists to fight longer at the time of 26/11 terror attack;

  • Adnaan Patrawala case: a Mumbai boy was kidnapped by his friends. The news of his kidnap got leaked in the media somehow. All the news channels flashed it, because of which the kidnappers got panicked and because of the fear of getting caught, they murdered him.

  • The famous Arushi murder case: whereby her father was a suspect in her murder. Media people constantly shooting each expression of the couple, pestering them to give an interview, without once thinking about what they must be going through.

And many more such cases...

The press has been useful too on many occasions, but the damages caused because of their so called Exclusive Reports cannot be compensated either. How many times you have seen a reporter shooting a fight between two people? Do you ever wonder why he never went to stop them? Rather he kept shooting until one or both of them had to be hospitalized and the channel claimed that we were the first one to report this.

Haven’t sting operations conducted by the tv channels violated the right to privacy? No doubt they were useful, but they framed innocents too, making their life miserable there after and damaging their reputation forever.

I want to love the press, but i want to love the responsible press that knows its duties, understands the sensitivity of the situation and acts within its limitations for the benefit of public and not TRP, sponsors, number one spot and revenue only. I do not mind 20 different 24x7 channels, but i do want to see sensible news there.


  1. Just loved this piece. I have written a couple of times as to how the news has lost its charm. Its all for TRP. Every silly news is a Breaking News.

    I still remember the BBC airing the death of Princess Diana as Breaking news!! Those were the days.

    Now prime time exclusive is Who slapped Salman Khan. And why did Ms Rakhi Sawant call her fiancee 'videshi'

    And I would like to mention one more point. Most South Indian private TV channels are owned by political parties. Sun TV by DMK, Jaya TV by AIADMK and such. So what we can get to watch here is a completely biased views and manipulated news. If its X party's channel, they will air anti-Y views and you tune into Y's channel at the same time, you can watch anti-X views.

    An audience really doesnt get to know what the truth is. Its true with newspapers, and also movie reviews nowadays. As these politician's grand children have got into movie production and distribution. Its pathetic.

  2. Oh I forgot to actually mention in all my excitement.

    Your posts; esp on legal and constitutional matters are precise and subtle. You are to the point, dont mention too many technicalities thereby making the reader at ease.

    Substance yet light. This piece too. Superb!!!

  3. agreed to the teeth, there are many cases where news channels also 'impose' their views on public.

    Like they are the decision makers on the country and decide that the 'questions' need to be asked and two days later decide that they were wrong.

    Don't forget the shameful thing done with the Bacchans marriage, they 'cooked' new news during the marriage and were rolling pics d whole day.

    Great article, tweeting it for others to read.

    Btw. I published more chapters of Einstein for on...:D

  4. Totally agree on that.
    My dad used to tell me "you have to read inbetween the lines"
    This was the era when there was only the newspaper.
    I still apply the same principle. (as it is I rarely watch the TV news channels)
    If I start surfing on TV I finally settle down on Pogo or Travel and Living :-)

  5. Most of what i what i wanted to say has been said by Insignia !

    mainstream media and paparazzi is a seamless merge. Just like the vamps of the yesteryears faded away as their roles were taken over by mainstream actresses !

    Fundamental freedom of speech and expression is onething. using it right is yet another !

  6. Hey Neha...i always think the power of press is huge!!! take for example cricket...its all in the news bcos of the press...the same press can make Hockey or any other sport famous with their powers ! which they never do!!! instead go on promoting cricket...hurting the senti of any other sportspersons!!!...

  7. Often, I have felt that media today is setting us wrong role models, wrong perspectives and unimportant news just to take off the cumulative public attention off matters of more import. Add to it the short public memory and the who care attitude has made things worse. Time was when letters to editor was religiously followed when public cared. Owned by business barons or politicians, media today lacks the spirit or respect. It is spiralling downwards, no questions about it.

    Ooops, was the comment longer than the post. Thanks for shaking those grey cells.:)

  8. Yeah!That's true! Media messes up most of the time...It's high time that they become more responsible!
    Well, in some cases, the intervention of media really helped, but thats like a drop in the ocean.

  9. Great post, Neha. I totally agree with you that the media has become a joke in India and has lost much of it's credibility. But is it only the responsibilty if the media? Ultimately it is the people, the majority of them,who by watching such news that Aish sneezed in the morning, contribute also to this downfall in true journalism.
    Jorunalists have a responsibility, no doubt but when what sells is pure crap, it becomes very difficult for media to do what they are supposed to do: give people the news and be the watchdog of democracy.
    Most media houses are owned by rich people who think of making money. Journalists are merely towing the line of channel they are working for.

    But you know, people are simply entertaining themselves to death...!
    I love your post:)

  10. And you forgot to mention their role in aggravating any kind of religious strife. I can bet the Gujrat Danga wouldn't have taken such a horrendous shape had it not been for the News Channels, instigating people of 2 different communities to kill each other, so that they could get more "news" to show... news that was created by them in the first place! I wonder if so many News Channels were around, fighting for TRPs, at the time of Indira Gandhi murder, would we have any living Sardar in the nation right now?
    Perhaps the Laws need to be changed. Perhaps some clause need to be added that in the possibility of loss of human life or destruction of public property, their Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression can be revoked.

  11. Insignia said it best and has touched most parts. Just adding this to her views which I totally second..

    We ought to thank the father of Faux News Rupert Murdoch for quite a few of these :

    1. Making 'Breaking News' a global joke.

    2. Shamelessly flaunting political preference and creating an empire out of that bias.

    Solace if any is that the tabloidism for Bollywood has not reached the disgusting levels as in Bollywood , it is sure to soon..

  12. Great Post!!

    The media has been taking rounds in leaps and bounds to maximize their viewership. The crazy controversies in reality shows, the 'Breaking News' stuff on news channels and lot more..
    For that matter, in Andhrapradesh, there is a war going on between two leading news papers to prove one another fraudulent!!

    Media folks have given up on what the media should be doing. They live and strive on 3 c's. -> Cricket, Crime & Cinema. I have a post on a similar note on my blog.. check out if that interests you.

  13. Totally agree with you. I felt sick to my stomach when I saw those media people giving away the plans and locations of the police and military during mumbai attacks last year. In one of the programs I even saw how Barkha Dutt was being felicitated for her bravery - for reporting the news in the midst of action! Such morons! Such hypocrites!
    Excellent post.

  14. What amazes me is who watches all these satar-fatar channels. Have we become TV junkies ? Sponsors will not pay for programs unless there is sufficient relevant viewership of a certain kind. One hundred channels on cable, and they continue to exist and spew forth mostly drivel ? The news channels deify their anchors, who go wild as during 26/11. Why didnt the government strictly throw them off the air during the 4 days ? For security reasons ? Is that Freedom of the press, or for the press ?

  15. @ Insignia, so very true ya...each word you mentioned in your comment is the hard core reality of the news world...and our dear politician - name one issue that they have not used for their own benefit..not only about south Indian channels, here too, so many channels are partial to a particular party and they criticize others...thank you for the wonderful like always extended my post :))
    and a special mention for the second comment...I am glad you can easily understand the law related posts...:))

    @ Sid, there are so many such issues, and I am glad that everyone is mentioning is extending the post..if I mention them all here, then you can understand nobody will read a post of 5000 words :) and thank u for tweeting this...I will read ur post today :))

  16. @ Haddock, you are right...we have to read in between the lines..but for that also we need sensible news na...I am glad you have found substitutes to your viewing...I have completely stopped watching tv :)

    @ Kavi, freedom of speech and expression - how many of us are aware about the provisions of this article? everyone finds law boring..
    news channels are all about paparazzi and TRP..

    @ HaRy, another important point...thank u for mentioning this..:)

  17. @ The Holy Lama, in your short comment, you touched all important aspects that i have spoken about in this post..earlier, the channels were limited, the medium was small; thus we valued the information... these days we aint even aware about the murder in the next lane, as we don't read or watch news..
    and please feel free to post as much long comment as u feel like...i will get my next post na :))))

    @ Varsha, very well apt...thanks :))

  18. I just wanted add on to point mentioned by HaRy. Once, post chak de, I saw a channel giving Shahrukh the credit of Indian hockey team winning a tournament. And interviewing him. Instead they could have highlighted the players and their contribution. WTF!!!

    And a few years back, when BREAKING NEWS flash over the screen , i used to hold my breath to listen to what happened. Not anymore, it could be anything like somebody saw a ghost in a house or a breakup between some soap stars.

  19. i second Insignia 's words!!
    the insanity in the media is purely due to the influence of political party !!!
    parties start a channel and merely flash news about their opponent and nowadays the media as become a
    'HUGE TIT for TAT' game....

  20. I totally agree.....I was having similar thoughts yesterday. Actually media interprets and twist so much, that they make a non-issue an issue and and real issue a non issue.

    But it does have a lot of pluses. Especially the Manu sharma case, and the awareness about security issues. If 26/11 would have happened in doordarshan days, it wouldnt have created so much of hullabaloo. And the issues of political corruption has been brought to attention thanks to media.

    Nice post. TC :)

  21. I agree whole can entertain people at all the times, but at the time of national security like 26/11 or when someone's life is at stake, they atleast show some responsibility and restrain, or the laws be made to restrict them.

  22. Nice post, Neha! Agree with it completely.

    The days of responsible journalism are gone. Now the buzz word is Sensationalism!!

    There was a breaking news on Aaj Tak some time back...Amitabh Bachchan ko thand lagi!!!

    I had done a post on Hindi news Channels some time back...You may check it out @

  23. Doordarshan news used to be like a very well planned meal prepared by a caring and devoted mother who knew too much spices ruins the taste and the digestion...served hot and in courses covering all most every thing .Who can forget that concluding line SAMACHAR SAMAPT HUE was presented as it is.

    Now what we are served is totally Junk Food.Like those innocent reality show contestants news too go throush a MAKE-OVER...trimmed,groomed,colored,made up,extensions added if needed.Screaming anchors,it is more like a circus now.

    Responsibility lies on both the parties media as well as us too.What makes media go into this frenzy is an important point to think and debate about.It was good and touching to see a large no of people coming out in protest against Mumbai attacks on tv but a very low voter's turn out later at elections was equally saddening and disheartening.I think we are equally responsible for this sorry state of media today.

  24. Soon, soon I go back to India. I wish I had been born in this great warm embrace!

    By the way....yes yes yes your blog is filled up with wonderful inspiring reading.

    Here is a footprint from me in Sweden!

    Peace & Love


  25. @ Panorama, I am not saying media is responsible for this...but they lost their basic purpose - the purpose of reporting the real news... entertainment, paparazzi etc. can be shown on so many other channels... one starts an organization with a news channels lost that.. I dont blame journalists, i dont blame those few nutters who don't get enough of entertainment in spite of watching movies, reading magazines and gossip columns..but what about others who watch news channels for real news?
    I am so glad you liked this post.. u are in the same industry, so ur opinion on this post matters a lot..:)

    @ Kaddu, not only gujarat dangas, so many other issues i have not thank you for mentioning it here...TRP, money, sponsors - the sole motive of television tolerate serials on entertainment channels and u tolerate them on news channels I jus mentioned in reply to Panorama, the basic motive of a news channel is killed..all we can do is be tolerant always...people will come and slap us and we will take it n move on..

  26. @ Madhu, I do not know how to thank u and so many other people here for these comments...I didn't want the post to be too long and boring..I wanted to include the constitutional provision too; that's why i could not rope in many issues...
    these days i m surprised if i see a news without the breaking news tag.. a 48 hrs old news is also a breaking news...10 other channels are showing the same thing, still it is exclusive...I guess they don't know the meaning of these terms...joke - is the appropriate term..

    @ Mohan, well, I have already commented about my views on this in the reply to others...and i will for sure check that post by u...thank u once again for your comments...and 3 c's, hmmm indeed interesting :)

  27. @ Karthik, the 26/11 episode by media was a shame...thank u for ur comments...i am glad you liked the post :)

    @ Ugich Konitari, couldn't have agreed more...instead of showing viewers the truth, the news channels are more interested in minting money, winning awards and is indeed very sad..

  28. @ Priyan, I agree with Insignia's views too...she summed it up for us perfectly...thank u..

    @ ZB, minuses are more than pluses...Manu Sharma - yes; but 200 lives during 26/11? we could not control 10 all lasted for 59 hours..and all they were showing was how the reporters are struggling for their lives, but still bringing the news to!! Issue of political corruption has been brought; but what action has been taken so far? I am not against tv or media, all I expect as an ordinary citizen is a bit of more responsible media..
    I am glad you liked the post buddy..

  29. @ Antarman, you are right...I replied the same thing to ZB...thanks :)

    @ Shilpa, I feel they should start a program called bachhan hour... thanks for the link...will for sure read ur post soon..:)

  30. @ Communi, Agree with you...I immediately change the channel the moment i see the word breaking news...kinda phobic to it now :)

    @ Kavita, thank you for this apt post as well as comments are trying to convey the same thing...thank u again :)

    @ Agneta, welcome here...thank you for leaving this wonderful comment.. India is indeed as beautiful as your country, people are equally warm too...I am sure you will agree with me even more after visiting..:)

    I am glad you liked my space :))

    @ R. Ramesh, :)

  31. Nice post. Loved it. The bottom line is sensationalism sells the news. In India, that plus movie people sell the news. If a plane takes off from Point A and lands at Point B, then it is not news. If there is an accident, that is the news. They go to any length to get the best ratings.

  32. Breaking News. God Knows who invented it, but not even in his wildest dreams, he had today's definition of Breaking News.

    English News Channels are somewhat better, but Hindi News Channels, gosh they even shoot family fights and make a 30 minute programme on it.

  33. With media one has both advantages and disadvantages. They have most of the time not handled the situation in a matured manner. 24x7 telecast one will be bound to fill in the free slots as to cover the operating cost.

  34. good article
    whatever happens press should never be censored.

  35. Well written and appreciated. Forthright and well said. Media - can cut both sides. But is it getting too commercialised and forgetting its main purpose?

  36. Neha,it is a blessing to have a lawyer on board and one as a blogger friend.How can you lawyers be so focused?
    In the past I have written few posts covering media activities.
    It is no longer a news channel business.It is all about TRPs,it is all about money,it is all about projecting one political party against the other,it is all about covering a marriage for a huge amount,it is all about promoting a movie star through the PR agency for money.
    It is business.
    Also,I get a dirty feeling that most of the senior journalists are wanting to get into Rajya Sabha,hence their preferences for the party whos seat is falling vacant.
    Let us break the breaking news.

  37. That is very insightful and sensible post... U cant imagine hw much it irritates me to watch the repeat telecasts of glamourised news.. When someones murdered or kidnapped, evr noticed their voice tone.. Instead of being sensitive they sensasionalize everything. Every right has a responsibility, and certainly the responsibility is not being performed. One news that amused me was when they showed all the places on a certain area where secret cameras are placed lolz and also when they showed how pirated movies are downloaded. What an enlightment.sometimes i wonder if they are trying to curb down or increase crime.

  38. @ SG, so true...sensationalism indeed sells the know, few channels even create such news and show is all indeed very sad..

    @ Prathamesh, yeah,we see serials on entertainment as well as news channels these days..thanks..

    @ NR, any organization, institution and even a program - they all are established with an object...if they show everything else but the purpose for which they are there, then what is the point of running it 24x7?

  39. @ sm, I am glad you liked the article..nobody is anyways censoring the press...that is the major reason we see all nonsense programs doing rounds for 23 out of 24 hours on the news channels..

    @ nsiyer, thank you for your kind words...the media - news channels especially have already lost their purpose sir...

  40. @ BK Chowla, thank you for your wonderful comment...we get money foe being focused, so no other option sir..:)
    you are right...the media has lost its purpose completely...wish we could break the breaking news sir...thank u..

    @ Rajlakshmi, you got it correctly...I have repeated all these points in the post as well as in comments...thanks girl..i am glad you liked it :)

  41. I somehow agree with you.
    Want to add a few points:
    1. Media is a industry and not any public service organ of government.
    2. Although media enjoys a rapport of being the 4th pillar of democracy, it is all business at the end of the day. Even a doctor doesn't reply to you when you call them at 2am! (Exceptions are there)

    In toto, Media is governed by the public's mindset only. TRP means the popularity of a program - means a program is liked by maximum number of people. Ok not liked, but yes VIEWED!

    So, instead of blaming the media, we should change our-self. If we shun any program, that won't be shown as TRPs will be down!


    Keep the spark alive...