Press council seeks govt response on gag orders

The Press Council of India (PCI) has sought a response from the Centre, taking note of the reports of “gag orders” issued against media by some of the Union Ministries including the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“A response from the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has been sought,” PCI Chairperson Justice (retd) C K Prasad told reporters here on Thursday, while replying to questions.

The PCI has taken note of the reports about certain “gag orders” issued against media recently by Union ministries including Home Affairs, he added.

“As a person, my view is that an irresponsible media is better than a controlled media,” Prasad said, reiterating the first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s view on the freedom of Press. Prasad was commenting on the notices issued to various news channels recently by the government. 

“If a journalist is irresponsible, people will judge, but if media is controlled, there is nothing to judge,” he added.

The Home Ministry recently issued an order, restricting access of media to its officials. In many other ministries including Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, Joint Secretary and Director level officials have been directed not to speak to media.

Stiffling the media
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently issued notices to ABP News, NDTV and Aaj Tak, seeking them to justify the contents of certain programmes that
they aired on the 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.

The ministry asked these three channels to explain why action should not be taken against them for violation of programme code under the Cable TV (Networks) Act, noting that some of the programmes aired by them showed disrespect to the judiciary and the President of India. Various media associations including Editors Guild of India criticised the ministry’s move, demanding it to withdraw the notices “forthwith”

As the reporters posed a volley of questions over the ministry’s notices to the news channels, the PCI chief said dissent was the forte of a democracy and every newspaper or channel had a right to dissent.

“But while dissenting, one has to keep in mind the larger national interest,” he added.
The PCI chief also cautioned media against attributing motives while criticising judiciary, saying it would erode the credibility of the institution.

“Criticise vehemently, but don't attribute motives,” he said.
 

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