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SC upset as Modi govt defends media reporting of Tablighi Jamaat

Consider evolving a mechanism to address the issues with content on TV, or else, the court may entrust it to an outside agency, SC said

Tuesday November 17, 2020 9:35 PM, ummid.com with inputs from agencies

SC hearing today

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India Tuesday expressed strong displeasure over Modi government's affidavit defending the media reporting of Tablighi Jamaat Delhi congregation in March when the lockdown was imposed to contain Covid-19 spread.

“First you did not file a proper affidavit and then you filed an affidavit which did not deal with the two important questions. This way it cannot be done Mr Mehta,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Also Read | Tablighi Jamaat: Read how Media underreported, suppressed the Bombay HC ruling

“We want to know as to what is the mechanism to deal with these contents on television. If there is no regulatory mechanism then you create one. Regulation cannot be left to organisation like NBSA,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

"Consider evolving a mechanism to address the issues with content on TV, or else, the court may entrust it to an outside agency", SC said.

Wrong to say Media targetted Muslims: Modi govt

The sharp response by the Supreme Court came after the Information and Broadcasting Ministry filed the affidavit opposing the plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind against media coverage which demonized the Muslim community in the backdrop of the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi.

"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", said the affidavit.

The Centre submitted "regime of forbearance allowed different sections of the media to function with the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution."

"A matter of choice"

This gives choice to the viewer 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.

The affidavit added that wide-ranging views and opinions have been expressed across media platforms on the Tablighi Jamaat issue, which are not communal in nature.

"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," said the affidavit.

"Have done enough to curb misinformation"

The Centre contended that access to different sections of the media, with varying journalistic policies enables the viewer to know various sides of any political, social, economic, health or even religious issue, which provides a choice on the source of knowledge or opinion.

The Centre pointed out that 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 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.


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