Journalists rise in solidarity with Mid Day scribes, condemn HC orde

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New Delhi, Sep 22 (UNI) The media world today rose up in unison against the Delhi High Court punishment to four journalists of Mid Day newspaper and called for a change in the contempt law.

At the Press Club of India lawns packed with journalists -- both from the print and the electronic media -- editors of leading newspapers, journals and TV channel said the High Court judgement was a direct attack on the freedom of the press.

They passed a resolution calling upon both the print and electronic media to reproduce the Mid Day story and face contempt of court if it leads to that. It vowed to fight all attempts to gag the media.

The meeting earlier scheduled to discuss only the sting operation issue turned into a debate on the freedom of the press.

The High Court awarded the journalists four month imprisonment on contempt of court charges for reports published in the newspaper alleging former CJI Y K Sabharwal's orders on sealing were biased and were meant to influence the business of his sons, who had contacts with mall owners.

The speakers said the journalists would be guilty only if an indepenedent inquiry against Justice Sabharwal found the allegations against him wrong.

''In fact the Mid Day journalist have only done their job by trying to bring out truth in a case,'' they said.

They felt the contempt law should be amended to exclude healthy criticism of judiciary from contempt.

The participants also expressed their strong opposition to the attempt by the Government to impose a content code and bring in a regulator for broadcasters.

They rejected the proposed Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill in toto.

They also condemned the recent action by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in putting ban on some channels, saying the erring channel could have been given some other punishment, but said the ban was a dictatorial action.

One of them put up a poser whether a magazine could have been also closed for same kind of operation.

There was also concern over the Government giving licence to all and sundry, like real estate developers and politicians, to start a TV channel.

''It should be defined who can bring out a newspaper or run a channel,'' they said.

There was a consensus that regulation in the media was needed, but this regulation should come from within.

The participants agreed that a broadcasting standards council on the line of the Advertising Council of India should be created. The process of drafting content code by the broadcast industry was on and a draft would be out soon, the meeting was informed.

The meeting was addressed by English weekly Outlook Editor Vinod Mehta, Hindustan Times Delhi Chief of Bureau Vinod Sharma, CNN-IBN Editor in Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Tehelka editor Shekhar Sen Thakur and its reporter Anirudh Bahel, Supreme Court Lawyer and human rights activist Prashant Bhushan, senior NDTV journalist Pankaj Pachauari and Press Club general secretary Pushpendra Kulshresht. The diuscussion was moderated by Press Club president Rahul Jalali.

Meanwhile, The India Newspaper Society(INS) has also expressed concern over the High Court sentence to Mid Day journalists.

It said while it had the highest regard for judiciary, it would like to point out that members of the Press were duty bound by the codes and ethics of their profession to make public, facts and developments which may have significant impact on the well being of the society and the organs of the state-- even if the publication has the effect of showing eminent public figures in an adverse light.

The INS said eminenet jurists and legal luminaries, some of whom have served as judges of the Supreme Court had also opined that an independent inquiry may be made into the allegations and contempt charges if any may follow such investigations.

Eminent lawyer Shanti Bhushan has also expressed concern over the High Court order.

UNI

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