PCI favours critical evaluation of pillars of democracy

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Panaji, Oct 5 (UNI) The Press Council of India (PCI) in its meeting held under the Chairmanship of Justice G N Ray, over the last two days in Goa, has extolled the strong pillar of democracy to welcome critical evaluation of its functioning to strengthen the confidence of people in the system.

The Council made these observations during the discussions on the issue of contempt proceedings against Mid-Day journalists.

The Council recalled that it had only recently supported before the Parliamentary Committee the proposal ''to accept truth as a defence in any contempt proceedings against the media.'' The Council observed that even though the issue of Mid-Day was now pending before the Supreme Court and thus sub-judice, without entering into the merits of the case, it felt that the courts are expected to be more sensitive to the duties and functions of the press.

''Before taking any view, it may be considered whether the criticism per se undermines the functioning of the Court in the estimation of the public by demeaning the judges presiding in the law courts,'' the PCI said.

In a democratic set up all institutions are open to bonafide critical evaluation of their functioning and such bonafide criticism in public interest only strengthens the quality of the functioning.

Dignity of the court is maintained more by restraint and magnanimity, truly forming the basis of the media information has now been protected under the amended provisions of the Contempt of Court Act.

Therefore, media information based on truth and published in public interest constitutes defence in contempt proceedings. The Council reasonably expects that proper justice will be meted out to the concerned media in the appeal stated to be pending before it.

However, such publications should not be accompanied by publicity which are excessive. At the sametime, the press exercising such powers must agree to subject itself to an effective system of self regulation and public accountability to ensure fairness of conduct.

The Council expressed confidence that the Supreme Court which is now seized of the matter, would give due consideration to all such aspects and its decision would give added impetus to the guarantee enshrined in article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution.

UNI

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