A Mumbai-based lawyer has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking directions that no FIR can be registered against any journalist unless it is sanctioned by the Press Council of India or any other judicial authority.
In the PIL, petitioner Ghanshyam Upadhyay referred to the recent logding of FIRs against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in Maharashtra and other states and an FIR against Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary in Kerala.
The plea claimed that some news channels are being targeted for exposing the involvement of antisocial, anti-national persons and a number of FIRS are being lodged in different states to snub their voices to prevent them from awaking the citizens from such nefarious and dangerous activities of such elements.
The petitioner has also sought laying down guidelines for mandatory sanction before registration of FIRs against journalists in order to ensure they were not subjected to vexatious and malicious prosecution for their news reports.
“The petitioner seeks laying down of guidelines with regard to registration of FIR against journalists to ensure that the press/media, which is the fourth pillar of democracy, is not subjected to suppression and oppression and their voice is not silenced by entangling them in false, frivolous, vexatious and malicious prosecution under the garb of investigation, in the manner in which recently, FIRs have been registered against the Editor-In Chief of the Respondent Nos. 3 (Republic TV) and 4 (Zee Media),” the plea said.
“Republic TV and Zee News during the spread of pandemic and consequent lockdown in the country telecast news on their respective TV channels and exposed Tablighi Jamaat/Maulana Saad responsible for spreading the deadly Covid 19 virus all over the country. Similarly, the Republic TV questioned the Congress President for maintaining complete silence after the brutal massacre of the two Hindu saints and their driver at Palghar on 16.4.2020,” Bar and Bench quoted the plea as saying.
The petition contended that citizens are entitled to receive complete, uncut and truthful information, analysis, especially concerning issues affecting and impacting sovereignty and integrity of India.
“Certain elements in the society averse to free flow of such unbiased, truthful, complete, uncut information take recourse to entangle journalists engaged in providing such vital and crucial information to the public at large by frivolous and vexatious criminal prosecution,” the plea said.
“The petition said that any pressure subversive of the freedom of media from any quarter, agency or authority will amount to infringement of fundamental right of the citizens of the country. Any interference with the presentation of the news, views of comments or any attempt to suppress or constrain it, would be impairment of the fundamental right of citizens of the country, which cannot be countenanced,” the petition said.
(With inputs from agencies)