Editors oppose HC direction on sting operation

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New Delhi, Dec 18: After editors, news broadcasters too have come out with a sharp reaction to last week's High Court order suggesting the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to set up a committee to censor sting operations before they are teleacst.

It would constitute a content control and thereby an unacceptable restraint on freedom of the press, they feel. News Broadcasters Association(NBA) today said it believed that sting operations were a legitimate journalistic tool and means of investigation, but like all powerful tools they have to be used with care and responsibility.

"We condemn motivated reporting and attempts to fabricate news, to attempt to gain popularity at the cost of journalistic integrity.

Such acts risk discrediting television news, and indeed the news media, as a whole. But this does not mean that sting operations are wrong in principle,'' NBA President G Krishnan said here.

He said that though events of the recent past had led to questioning of sting operations on grounds of authenticity, stray incidents did not warrant such interference, which was totally against the tenets of democracy, free speech and the freedom of the press.

''The suggestion that a telecast of news receive prior permission of the Government would constitute censorship of news and would, for that reason, constitute "content control" and thereby an unacceptable restraint on the right of free speech,' said Mr Krishnan.

He said the NBA was in the process of formulating a code of self regulation for news and current affairs channels. Mr Harish Salve, Senior Advocate and former Solicitor General of India, was helping it in finalizing the self regulation guidelines and grievance redressal mechanism.

Mr Krishnan said, "The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been encouraging of our endeavour towards self-regulation. We trust the government will view the present suggestion in the same supportive spirit and resist attempts and suggestions to interfere with the press.'' Earlier, The Editors Guild of India had expressed its strong opposition to the HC direction to the Ministry, saying the move would bring back the days of emergency.

''If implemented, this suggestion of the court would introduce a draconian, judicially backed emergency by the back door and would trample the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution,'' President of the Guild Alok Mehta and General Secretray K S Sachidananda Murthy said here.

The sting operations should be subjected to thorough pre-telecast scrutiny and should be carried out in genuine and public interest, but the remedy suggested by the court was fatal, they said.

The Delhi High Court had on Friday last asked the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to constitute a censorship panel headed by a retired judge and having a bureaucrat and a policeman as member to censor the TV footage.

The direction to the Ministry came while disposing a petition on the recent sting operation of a TV channel, which falsely implicated a Delhi school teacher Uma Khurana.


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