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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Will judiciary dictate the style of reporting NDTV or India Today should adopt?

In the recent tussle between the Maharashtra government and Republic TV, the judiciary took exception to Arnab Goswami’s style of reporting. The CJI (Chief Justice of India) made some strong observations in this regard which may be considered undesirable.

A three-judge bench headed by CJI SA Bobde, and including Justices Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao was ruling on a case pertaining to two FIRs (First Information Report) filed by the Maharashtra government against Republic TV Chief Editor Arnab Goswami. During the proceedings, the judges made the following observations among other things.

“Press freedom is crucial but there has to be responsibility in reporting and there are some areas one has to tread with caution. You don’t have to always go as per the mores of the day… You can be a little old-fashioned…Frankly speaking I can’t stand it. This is not the kind of public discourse we should have.”

 While demanding responsibility may in itself not be wrong, the judiciary’s demand that reporting be done “in a certain way” and “to their liking” is certainly not acceptable or desirable. Judges may be well within their rights to reprimand media if the latter falls short on facts but asking an anchor to report in an “old-fashioned way” only reeks of an elitist attitude.

The CJI said he couldn’t stand the kind of reporting done by Arnab. Well in that case we would like to humbly submit that the CJI always has the option of switching channels or putting off the TV. Ideally, a bigger concern of the judiciary should be the fake news being peddled by channels in their bid to be the first one to “break the news” or to peddle an agenda and create a certain type of narrative.

The courts never take exception to the fake narrative created by NDTV, the Wire, Quint, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghosh, Barkha Dutt, and others. The courts almost never find either the time or the inclination to take Suo moto cognizance in anti-Hindu cases.

In our opinion, the kind of narrative created by the likes of these channels is even more dangerous because they are injecting poison into society. Sophistication can be no excuse for injecting poison into society and corrupting young impressionable minds in particular.

Only recently, NDTV had peddled fake news of a Tanishq store in Gujarat being attacked following the ad controversy. This was probably the most irresponsible reporting done by a channel that could have caused public unrest had it not been for a proactive police force.

NDTV is an expert in creating and spreading fake news since 2002. If the style of reporting is a concern, then the courts must be alarmed by the anti-national and anti-Bharat narrative peddled by the likes of Wire, Quint, The Print, etc. In fact, Rajdeep Sardesai had admitted on camera that “they were vultures when it comes to reporting”. Isn’t this a direct admission of the kind of sensationalism created by these journalists only to grab TRPs (Television Rating Points)?

Speaking of TRPs, India Today group owned Aaj Tak was among several channels reprimanded by the NBSA (News Broadcasting Standards Association) for putting out offensive headlines in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case. The respected judges would obviously know that headlines are used as click baits and to create sensationalism that the CJI and his colleagues cannot stand.

More often than not channels such as NDTV, anchors such as Rajdeep and Barkha, and portals like the Quint and Wire use sophisticated language and diction to peddle utterly false news which seems to find favor with the judiciary. It is our submission that content and not language or style should be the deciding factor.

While the courts must certainly reprimand Arnab Goswami if he was putting out false news, they cannot dictate how he should report on the Palghar sadhus’ lynching case or any other case. Ultimately it is the viewers, not the judiciary, who decide whether a particular news channel deserves their attention or not. Judicial activism must be limited to content and not encroach upon one’s style and also must be the same for all channels without favoritism.

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