Centre defends media reporting on Tablighi Jamaat

Centre defends media reporting on Tablighi Jamaat, says most reports were not communal in nature

It said its policy gave a choice to the viewers either to see all or any sides of a particular view or to choose a particular side

Credit: PTI file photo.

The Centre has defended before the Supreme Court media reports related to Tablighi Jamaat event, held here in March, saying most of news reports were not communal in nature and its "regime of forbearance allowed different sections of the media to function with the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution".

It said its policy gave a choice to the viewers either to see all or any sides of a particular view or to choose a particular side on any events, issues and happenings across the world.

"News reports and other articles in this (Tablighi Jamaat) context have reflected multiple viewpoints of the stakeholders related to the events, and predominantly stuck to a balanced and neutral perspective," the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said in an affidavit.

On any particular issue, there could be several views and perceptions in the public domain. As a matter of journalistic policy, any section of the media may seek to highlight different events, issues and happenings across the world as per their choice, it added.

However, access to different sections of the media, with varying journalistic polices enables the viewers or readers to know various sides, social, economic, health or even religious issue thereby providing a choice on the source of knowledge or opinion, it said.

The Ministry opposed a plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind against media coverage, saying there were wide-ranging views and opinions on media platforms, which were not communal in nature.

However, it also pointed out in exercise of the statutory powers under the existing regime, central government has issued several directions to prevent dissemination of fake news leading to abrogation of communal harmony.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been issuing advisories from time to time to TV channels to adhere to the programme code. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has power to issue directions for blocking of information by public under section 69A of IT Act 2000, and Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of information by Public) Rules, 2009.

With regard to tackling false or fake news appearing on digital and electronic media, it said the Press lnformation Bureau (PIB) already has a unit which looked at such matters.

During the month of March and April, 2020, the PIB social media handle has done Covid-19 related fact-checks in 119 cases appearing in the media, including 83 on social media, seven on television, three in print media, 15 on WhatsApp, and 11 on online news portals, it said.