The Supreme Court must look into regulating digital media as it has far more impact, the government told the apex court Credit: Licensed Image

Guwahati: The Supreme Court must look at regulating digital media first if it wishes to scrutinize electronic media, submitted the Union ministry of information and broadcasting on Thursday.

Arguing on laying down standards for electronic media, the Union government said that the court should review digital media because of its reach and impact. “Digital media has faster reach, potential to become viral due to apps like WhatsApp and Facebook,” it said.

“Digital media has serious impact and because of its potential, the court must first take up digital media,” it said.

The Centre’s observations can be connected to a case against a private TV channel, Sudarshan TV, over a show that intended to expose the conspiracy behind recruiting Muslims in public service. The show claimed Muslims are “infiltrating” government services.

The apex court labelled the show as a “rabid programme” with no evidence to back its claim and cannot be allowed to telecast in a free society.

The court further added that the programme wishes to vilify the Muslim community. “You cannot target one community and brand them in a particular manner,” said the Supreme Court as it restrained Sudarshan TV from telecasting its episode named “UPSC Jihad” on their show, “Bindas Bol”

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Stating that electronic media already comes under the purview of a “sufficient framework” and judicial precedents to regulate their content, the centre said that it is rather the works of digital media that needs to be monitored.

“Considering the serious impact and the potential, it is desirable that if this Hon’ble Court decides to undertake the exercise, it should first be undertaken with regard to digital media as there already exists sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements with regard to electronic media and print media,” the centre informs the court in an affidavit

In the Tuesday hearing, the Supreme Court showed their worry about the strive for popularity and “sensationalism” that is reflected on the programmes of TV news channels and had ruled that it would set up a panel to advise on standardising content in electronic media. Journalistic freedom is not absolute, the judges said, calling for a panel of five distinguished citizens to come up with standards for electronic media. Upon the members of the panel, the top court said, “We don’t want any politically divisive nature and we need members who are of commendable stature.”

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A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra & KM Joseph heard the petition on Tuesday against airing the programme on Sudarshan TV.

The court also held their reservations against the round-the-clock coverage on television news channels surrounding the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

Justice DY Chandrachud retorted upon Press Council of India’s statement that regulations are in place, “If things would have been so hunky-dory then we would not have to see what we see on TV every day.”

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