New Delhi: Self-regulation by the Indian media is better than external
agencies breathing down its reportage, experts said at an event
here even as the Supreme Court constitution bench is hearing a
plea for framing guidelines to regulate media coverage of court
"A body like the Press Council of India with respected people to
enforce the code of conduct" appears to be the only way, said
international media watcher Robin Jeffrey, author of the book
"India's Newspaper Revolution".
"No English (media) speaking country has come with any
satisfactory way (answer). But self-regulation seems to be the
only option," Jeffrey said fielding questions at the Rajendra
Mathur memorial lecture at the India International Centre here
this weekend. The even was organised by the Editors' Guild of
Jeffrey, who has been a journalist in Canada, and has also lived
and worked in India, Australia and Singapore, believes that
distortions troubling Indian media reporting would vanish as "has
happened in other countries".
A "regulator is unlikely to fix that cause of the problem" because
at the end of the day, the regulator is going to censure you, and
with the passage of time that means nothing.
Striking a similar note, former chief justice J.S. Verma said, "I
shudder to think if the government were to step in what would
"Babus (clerks) would be deciding how the media should behave," he
The government taking over media regulation would be "sad and
self-regulation would be better", Justice Verma said cautioning
mediapersons that the "government was itching to do it".
Pointing to such a scenario, Justice Verma said "it would be very
demeaning", and that by exercising self-restraint, the media
should protect its self-esteem.
Asking mediapersons to be "accurate, credible and shun
sensationalism", Justice Verma said even under Article 19 (1) (a)
reasonable restriction could be imposed.
He said he was glad that leading legal experts like Fali Nariman
and Soli Sorabjee have opposed the plea for putting in place
guidelines on media reporting and said they know what had happened
during Emergency in 1975.
Having cautioned mediapersons on the pitfalls of regulation, Verma
said, "It is better to let some obnoxious branch grow than allow
someone to strike at the roots of tree."