Human Rights and Media.
Author: Priyanka Saraogi and Prachi Tiwari
Mody university, (College of Law and Governance).
I should rather have a completely free press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of the freedom, than a suppressed or regulated press”.
- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
When the constitution of India was being drafted, the members of the constituent assembly were very much acquainted with the challenges of governance and societal changes, which were likely to take place in coming decades. The debates of the constituent assembly which lasted for three years, culminated in evolving a set of rights recognized by persons of various castes and creeds transcending national, social, and cultural boundaries. The framers of constitution have shown great statesmanship and farsightedness.
Although the theme of social revolution runs through the entire structure of the Constitution, Parts III and IV- fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy- demonstrate the core of this commitment. These are recognized as the values of the constitution, because they provide the foundation for human rights and human development policies for governance.
Human rights are the rights to which an individual has a just right as a human being. Men, women and children inherit this right since there birth. Every human being is entitled to enjoy his or her right without discrimination.
“The demand for a declaration of fundamental rights arose from four factors.”*’
- Lack of civil liberty in India during the British rule
- Deplorable social conditions, particularly affecting the untouchables and women
- Existence of different religious, linguistic, and ethnic groups encouraged and expicited by the Britishers
- Exploitation of the tenants by the landlords
Human rights and their implementation, practice and protection are a benchmark of a truly developed, civilized and democratic society. People enjoy the maximum number of human rights in a democracy. But in the same democracy the violation of those human rights is maximum, because of the inattentive nature of the people about their human rights.
The basic human rights include:
- Right to life, liberty and security of person
- Right to freedom of speech
- Judicial remedy
- Freedom to movement
- Right to take part in governance of one’s country
These are the basic human rights and have been interpreted as civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Article 12-35 of Part III elaborate on the fundamental rights. Article 35-51 outline the framers vision for good governance and they constitute the directive principles of state policy.
The article 19 of universal declaration on human rights (UNO, 1948) and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (1966) have acknowledged the free flow of information, freedom and pluralism of the media, and the freedom of expression and speech as human rights. Freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of press, freedom to form association and freedom to move inside the country and to settle at any place of one’s own choice and freedom to engage in any trade, profession or business. These rights are very pivotal and essential to protect the human rights of people who are suffering from social disparities, suppression and sidelined by the dominant class.
Power of speech is a bliss to man. Freedom of expression has always been emphasized as a special right for democratic, economic functioning of the society. This is being included in Art. 19(1)(a) of the constitution i.e. the freedom of the press. The question whether a separate provision should be made for freedom of press was extensively debated in the constituent assembly in the backdrop of first amendment to constitution of the United States of America and it was decided that there is no need for separate provision because the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression enshrined under art. 19(1)(a) is wide enough to include press. This is evinced from the following statement of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar:
“The press is merely another way of stating an individual or a citizen. The press has no special rights which are not to be given or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in his individual capacity. The editor of a press or the manager is all citizens and therefore when they choose to write in newspapers, they are merely exercising their right of expression and in my judgment no special mention is necessary of the freedom of press at all,”
In the U.S.A., the first amendment, mentioned above, specifically protects a free press. The view developed by the U.S. Supreme Court is that freedom of the press includes more than merely serving as a “neutral condition of information between the people the people and their elected leaders or as a neutral form of debate.”
The importance of the freedom of press in parliamentary democracy was time and again recognized, stated, re-stated and confirmed by the Superior courts despite the fact that Article 19(1)(a) does not contain any specific enumeration of this freedom. Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras is one of the earliest cases in which the Supreme Court struck down the ban imposed by the government of madras on entry and circulation of the journal, “CROSS ROADS”. The supreme court held that section 9(1-A) of the madras maintenance of public order act, 1949 was violative of article Article 19(1)(a) and does not fall within the ambit of any of the exceptions specified in Article 19(2). The court held that the right to freedom of speech and expression is paramount and that nothing short of a danger to the foundations of the state or a threat to its overthrow could justify a curtailment of the right to freedom of speech and expression.
In Printers (Mysore) Ltd. V. Assistant Commercial Tax Officer, the Supreme Court has reiterated that though freedom of the press is not expressly guaranteed as a Fundamental Rights, it is implicit in the freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of press has always been a cherished right in all democratic countries and the press has rightly been described as the fourth estate. The democratic credentials of a state are judged by the extent of freedom the press enjoys in the state.
In Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India several newspapers filed writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the notifications issued by the Centre imposing from March 1, 1981, specified rates of customs duty and auxiliary duty on newsprint imported by different categories of newspapers. The levy was challenged in the Supreme Court. The main plea of the petitioners was that the impugned levy of duty on imported newsprint was excessive and had the direct effect of crippling the freedom of speech and expression and the carrying on of the business of publishing newspapers as it had led to an increase in the price of newspapers resulting in reduction of their circulation. The Supreme Court accepted the plea of the newspapers and said that the government must be more cautious while levying taxes on matters concerning newspaper industry than while levying taxes on other matters. The Court also observed that, Article 19 of the Indian Constitution does not use the phrase “freedom of press”16 in its language, but it is contained within Article 19(1) (a). There cannot be any interference with the freedom of press in the name of public interest. The purpose of the press is to enhance public interest by publishing facts and opinions, without which a democratic electorate cannot take responsible decisions.
The freedom of speech and expression not only consists of right to express, propagate and publish information through media but also to receive information. This was held by the Supreme Court in a series of judgments which have discussed the right to information in various context- from advertisements enabling citizens to get information about the new laws and government policies, to the right of sports lovers to watch football and the right to education to all class of people.
Although constitution guarantees Freedom of speech and expression i.e., article 19(1), includes freedom of press, but still there are some reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of-
- Integrity of India
- Security of the state
- Friendly relation with foreign state
- Public order
- Contempt of court
- Incitement to an offence
On the above nine grounds can restriction be imposed by law and it is open to the court to decide on the reasonableness of those restrictions.
Evolution of media
We live in changing times. Significant political and economic developments and innovations in the field of communication technology towards the end of 20th century have left deep impact on many of our institutions. Globalization has given a new dimension to the capitalist economy, has altered the power and functions of the nation-state and created a global village. These events have provoked a polemical debate on democracy, the nation-state, citizenship and the role and function of media.
Media profess a prime role in protecting and promoting human rights in the world. It makes people aware of the need to promote certain values in the cause of human rights which are of eternal value to the mankind. Media perform this role in different ways. It makes people aware of their rights, expose its violations and focus attention on people and areas in need of the protection of human rights and pursue their case till they achieve them. Media publicizes the individuals and organizations, which are engaged in securing human rights. This will inspire others to do the same. Media educate and inform the people of their rights and suggest ways by which they can solve their problems, thus empowering them to protect their rights. Since media is one of the ways of communication between the state and the public, it also plays an effective role of making the authorities aware of their duties. The press serves as a powerful remedy to any misuse of power by government officials and as a means for keeping the elected officials responsible for the work they were elected by the people.
Reporting is no longer confined to traditional sources of journalism Traditional concept of media includes the television, newspapers, radio, magazines, etc. but now the definition of media is changed, now the media also includes the social media. The impact of media after the introduction of social media has become powerful and also it give a boost to media to reveal the truth through other means. ‘Social media is an important new tool for promoting social and political change.
Media and human rights in various countries
In India photographs are taken without the consent of an individual if he/she is in a public space by media. Whereas in UK it is not allowed. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC), UK is a self-regulatory body similar to NBA. Code of ethics has put down by the PCC, to be followed by journalists. The guidelines provide that everyone has the right to privacy and reason for intrusions to a person’s privacy must be stated by the editor. This includes photographing individuals in private places without their consent. Interestingly, private places include public or private property “where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
United Kingdom is a member of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees the right to privacy under Article 8 of the Convention: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
Sweden also has a Code of Ethics which applies to press, television and radio. The Code was adopted by the Swedish Co-operation Council of the Press in September 1995. The Code of Ethics for Press, Television and Radio in Sweden has been drawn up by the Swedish Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the Magazine Publishers’ Association, the Swedish Union of Journalists and the National Press Club.
The Instrument of Government Act of 1974 provides for the protection of individual privacy. It states that freedom of expression is limited under Article 13 of the Constitution:
“Freedom of expression and freedom of information may be restricted having regard to the security of the Realm, the national supply, public safety and order, the integrity of the individual, the sanctity of private life, or the prevention and prosecution of crime. Freedom of expression may also be restricted in economic activities. Freedom of expression and freedom of information may otherwise be restricted only where particularly important reasons so warrant.”
Japan does not have any organization like PCC in UK or the Press Ombudsman in Sweden. Apart from the Canon, the NSK has a code for marketing of newspapers, an advertising code and the Kisha club guidelines.
The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association or Nihon Shinbun Kyokai (NSK), was established in 1946 as an independent and voluntary organisation to establish the standard of reporting, and protect and promote interests of the media.
Whereas in india the media is self regulatory. Press Council of India( a statutory body), News Broadcasting Standards Authority (self-regulatory organization) issue standards for media which are more in the nature of guidelines.
Media as the promoter of human rights in india
One of the tremendous accomplishment of India apart from it’s With burgeoning growth and largest democracy in world, is its vibrant media. Right from the era of independence, where power of ink was recognized more than bullet, media role was seen as stature to bind people together for a common agenda. When the Ghadar party was organised in America, Lala Hardayal started publication of the journal ‘Ghadar’. Within one year, millions of copies of this journal were published in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi and English and sent to India and to all parts of the world.
Since media are the eyes and ears of any democratic society, their existence becomes unfavorable to the subsistence of all democratic societies. Unless a society does not know what is happening to it and its members, the question of protecting and promoting rights will not arise. When a society knows what is happening to it and its member, then the question of protecting and promoting them will arise. Hence here media is one of the aids which justify their existence by their function.
In early eighties, a revelation, made by Sunday magazine published by Anand Bazar Patrika from Kolkata with front page story of the blinding of prisoners in Bhagalpur jail, had virtually rocked the entire nation when its copies were waved in parliament. This was the first major case of human rights violations ever to have been reported in the media. Media empowers the functioning of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, thus it is known as the forth pillar of democracy. Peace, non-violence, disarmament, maintenance and promotion of ecological balance and unpolluted environment and ensuring human rights for all irrespective of caste, color and creed should be the minimum common agenda for the media. It remains to the credit of the media that several issues related to human rights violations, when brought to light have been taken up by the Indian judiciary and landmark judgments have been delivered, thereby, upholding and expanding the meaning of human rights.
At this moment , media and specially the social media is unflaggingly working on human rights and doing an outstanding job. In the past few 109 years the social media has been quite active in protecting human rights and bringing justice to the victims. Whether it is floods in Jammu & Kashmir or the 2014 assembly elections in the state, social media has contributed significantly for creating an environment in favor of human rights. Every coin has two faces likewise media too has two faces on one face of it is making people aware of their rights, on the other it is forcing the government and the administration to take strict action and give justice to the victim in case of the violation of their rights. Both media and the social media are proved to be helpful and an effective tool in alerting people and making them familiar of their rights. This has not only awake people and made them familiar of their rights , but now a days they are also lashing out against the incidents of human rights violation which they used to suffer with until now.
India has witnessed the power of social media in Nirbhaya case. Social media has raised awareness, stimulated debate, changed the attitudes of public and a massive movement was generated against the horrific-rape case that has also changed the directive and action for respect and protection of women in India. Social media and online communication tools were utilized to inform, mobilize and organize people and case became focus on across the media platforms. Social media campaign has gone viral after two gang rape videos went viral on whatsapp. The videos were later uploaded on YouTube and Facebook by social activist SunithaKrishanan, asking people to help identify the alleged rapists. Immediately Supreme Court of India taken up the case and asked the CBI to register a case and immediately investigate the video.
We all remember Machhil fake encounter case the April 30, 2010 incident, when the army killed three youths in Machhil sector near LoC, telling them Pakistani intruders. Actually, the three were passing through a check post and army troops signaled them to stop. But allegedly when they didn’t stop the army fired bullets at them under AFSPA. Both print and electronic media published and broadcast the news prominently. But when the local people and separatists protested against this incident and accused the army of abusing AFSPA then only the local and national media tried to go to the bottom of the case. The news was given prime time in the electronic media and 110 front page space in the local print media. In about a month it was revealed that the three youths killed by the army as Pakistani intruders were actually residents of the Nadihal village in Baramula district. They were identified as Ahmed Khan (27), Riaz Ahmed Lone (20) and Mohammad Saifi loans (19). Jammu and Kashmir police filed a charge sheet in July 2010 in the case against 10 accused including three army officers and five army jawans. In July 2012 the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Sopore allowed court martial against the 9 accused from army. On November 12, 2014, the military court sentenced 2 army officers and 5 jawans to life imprisonment in the fake encounter case. Media constantly broadcasted and published news related to this issue. Not only the local media in Kashmir, but the national media has given enough space to the fake encounter case, from the perspective of human rights violations. The fake encounter case has dominated on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Whatsapp etc) from 2010 when the incident took place to 2014 till the decision came. This news was published on ndtvkhabar.com on December 25, 2013 titled “Launch of court martial ordered against six military personnel.” The website published the news prominently. The people in valley began a continuous movement for two months in the case of violations. After complaints by relatives of victims the police arrested a jawan of regional army and two others. But since the 111 incident unrest has spread in the entire Kashmir valley and large-scale protests began in which nearly 123 people were killed.
Success of such cases and many more other cases tell the strength and effectiveness of media used as a weapon of protection of human rights and creating awareness on the issues of social interest.
Media as promoter of human right violations
On the one hand where media is helpful for promoting and protecting human rights, on the other hand the same media is also responsible for the violation of human right and misuses their power. Mass media have move away from positive expectations of the society. By the end of 19th century and at the early 20th century the media instead of being a vehicle for advancing freedom and democracy started becoming more and more a means of making money and propaganda for the new and powerful classes. Globalization and economic liberalization have further contributed to deteriorating negative attitude of media towards the society. Global competition, profit motive made media forget about its social responsibility. Money ruled over morals. Media is no more interested in creating citizenship, providing public sphere for dialogue and interaction among the citizen. Instead it is busy in transforming citizens into spectators by offering them entertainment to knowledge, education and information.
One day, a leading English newspaper published on its front page a photograph of Justice Gyan Sudha Misra of the Supreme Court with the caption: “Supreme Court Judge says that her daughters are liabilities.” This was a distorted and fallacious item of news, published on the front page.
Supreme Court Judges have to disclose their assets and liabilities. Against the liabilities column, Justice Misra had written: “two daughters to be married.” Strictly speaking, it was not necessary to mention this because liabilities mean legal liabilities, for example, housing loan, car loan, and so on. Justice Misra’s intention was obviously to say that she would have to spend on her daughters’ future marriage. She has three daughters (no son), only one of whom has been married. Justice Misra never said, nor intended to say, that her daughters were liabilities. The news was false and defamatory, with the obvious intention of creating a sensation.
Ratan Tata filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court of India alleging that the unauthorized publication of his private conversations with Nira Radia was in violation of his right to privacy. The writ, filed by the industrialist, did not challenge the action of the Directorate-General of Income Tax to record the private conversations for the purpose of investigations. Instead, it was challenging the publication of the private conversations that took place between the industrialist and Nira Radia by the media. Whether the publication of those private conversations was in the interest of the public has been widely debated. What the Tata episode brought into focus was the need for a law protecting the right to privacy in India.
In March 2005 a television news channel carried out a sting operation involving Bollywood actor Shakti Kapoor to expose the casting couch phenomenon in the movie industry. The video showing Shakti Kapoor asking for sexual favors from an aspiring actress, who was an undercover reporter, was received with public outrage. Nonetheless, prominent members of the media questioned the manner in which the sting was conducted. The sting was set up as an entrapment. The court has taken a strong view against the use of entrapment in sting operations. In the case of the Shakti Kapoor sting, privacy of the actor was clearly violated. The manner in which the sting was put through, casts serious dubiousness on who was the wounded person and who was the assailant .In supplementary to the organized association of the media in human rights violations, the media sometimes itself transgress the right to privacy of every private individual. For instance, the phone-hacking scandal trailing the British newspaper- News of the world, clearly demonstrate the limit to which the media go in their role in aggregating and propagating information for public interest. In the alleged scandal, some former employees of the newspaper were encouraged by their editors to hack into mobile phones (Burns, 2010). The incident led to the suspension of one of the newspapers reporters (Bentham et al 2010; Robinson, 2010). This is a clear violation of the rights to privacy of the victims by the very media which is considered to be the protagonist of human rights. The way death of popular actor sridevi has been reported in our media, especially on television, is clearly contrary to the journalism. For me, the most bashfulness was watching news telecasted on India’s most watched Hindi channel which jazz up the word “Maut Ka Bathtub,” or “The Bathtub of Death.” Donald trump, 45th president of United States had complimented the Indian media as “mild and nice.” This compliment has put down the esteem of our country and we must feel disgrace. Mild is bad enough to indicate where we stand. Whether an individual is celebrity or not, there’s a standardized way to report any person’s death and what the media has done, the way they reported the death of sridevi to the whole country is totally chaotic. The news channels are using a woman’s death as an medium for higher TRPs and not only this is the one case there are many other such cases and this is where they have crossed the line between journalism and exploitation. We saw things happened with Arushi Talwar, Sunanda Pushkar and Sheena Bora and its reprehensible, Pratyusha banerjee, Jiya khan etc.
The media role should still more constructive, by media uncovering the truth and generate awareness against society’s ills and evils. Even, many women have said that the media coverage (of rape or other violence) was like a second assault all over again, because of their insensitivity in using pictures, publishing names, and other violations of privacy. Coverage of news of violence against the women has been sensational and they also lack in serious generality. But nowadays the coverage of media of sexual assault and domestic violence has slowly changed. Although problems remain. Media also have a duty to report accurately on acts of violence against women. Still women’s bodies are used as objects to sell products.
The JNU ‘crackdown’ has exposed the media, a speech on Sunday night by Umar Khalid, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, has gone viral on social media and has been reported widely in mainstream media. What make his speech interesting are his comments on the media and the way sections of the media covered the JNU ‘crackdown’. The comments of Khalid on the media and its role in distorting the facts about the student agitation are what we need to ponder on. He said that ‘even after it became clear that there were no Jaish-e-Mohammad connection, [the media] has not given a disclaimer, apologized or done anything to correct it’, ‘each media house that distorted the facts will have to answer’ and ‘no one knows how to distort facts and lie better than the media’. Even if one were to ignore the views of a Left-leaning student leader like Khalid, the decline in the credibility of the media cannot be ignored. While this has been a gradual decline reflected in different forms, it took a couple of agitating students to dramatically draw attention to it.
In the ancient India, the media was correlated with words like ‘truth’, ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’. Regrettably, in today’s India the case is not same. Many people ‘fear’ media persons and loathe what they represent — much like they do the police or goons who masquerade as lawyers. Feasibly words like ‘dalal’, ‘agents’ and ‘fixers’ are associated with certain sections of the media. Perhaps that is the reason when a minister chooses a derogatory tag like ‘presstitutes’, many people nod in agreement. Their immatureness is sometimes reflected in their coverage of sensitive issues like international relation, border issues and national security. In my opinion Indian media is relatively new with reference to other international media.
Criticisms of human rights coverage in the media
According to our observation although now a days there are many human rights coverage in media but this was no so in the past. Some of common points where media fails are:
- Due to inadequate and incomplete knowledge of the human rights by the journalists themselves: what the human rights are, what their origin is, what are responsibilities of the government, how such rights must be promoted, protected and enforced. As a result they generally mortify the issues.
- Journalists generally mishap the stories or the particular incidents and plot the issues in erroneous manner, by not considering the human rights. This violates the right to information available to every individual and also affects the essence of journalism.
- Rather than presenting any human right issues as rights issues they are more willingly presented as a crime or political stories to the public.
- Journalist prompts the information without analyzing it properly. Which results in, human rights violations been isolated instances or new events even when they are only the latest in a history of similar violations.
- Media by attacking privacy of the individuals, perpetuating bias and stereotypes, not calling governments to account, or deepening conflict themselves sometimes commits human rights abuses.
The paper discussed about how the media advocates the promotion as well as violation of human rights. The media plays the dual role- as a channel of protecting human rights by covering human right abuses and as a promoter of human right violation. Media plays an important role in the promotion of human rights and has been playing this role throughout in every corner of world. It is responsibility of media to bring in notice to the government and also to general public the cases of human right violations. But at the same time media must be careful that the way it portrays the matter must have no adverse effect on the society harmony in the country like India where the harmony is of utmost importance the media must take all the measures while reporting any matter. Media has report many scandals at national and international to general public. But media while exposing someone must be careful that constitutional theory of rule of law is applicable to both the party one who is involved in the scandal and the other who is reporting the scandal. Thus media is supposed to safeguard pubic interest by lightning the misdeeds, failings and lapsing of the government and the organs of the government. This is the only reason that the media is considering as the fourth pillar of the democracy. The media can be a powerful medium for alerting the people making them aware of the need to promote certain values in the cause of Human Rights which are of utmost important to the mankind. Sometimes the media perform its job of awaking people and making them familiar of their rights consciously and unconsciously. For example, media while circulating the information regarding deaths at the mine site in its knowledge just inform about disaster but media while doing so media unconsciously circulating human right related news. The media sometimes also deliberately works hand in hand with Human Rights organizations to carry out promotional programme to either create Human Rights awareness or call the violators on the carpet.
The media also hold the efficacy of providing limelight to the individuals and organizations which are engaged in procuring Human Rights. This cheer up as well as persuade likeminded people to do Human Rights related works and in effect, the media once again plays a very crucial role of promotion and protecting the human rights.
Above and all media also help in familiarizing and enlightening every individual of their fundamental human rights and recommend them the ways and means by which they can solve their problems and thus emancipate people to protect their rights. The media while acting as an allegorize between the state and the public, it also reminds the authorities of their duties.
In a nutshell, the media are agents of social change that can bring about positive attitudinal change in the audience; they set the agenda for the people to follow, crucial to opinion formulation and eventual outcomes of events. The media can encourage governments and civil society organizations to effect changes that will improve the quality of people’s lives. Journalists and photographers frequently expose the plight of people who have their fundamental Human Rights often violated by their superiors. The media creates a general Human Rights awareness, exposes cases of Human Rights violations, exposes Human Rights abuses for legal actions, publicizes the plights of victims for people to know or see, discourages Human Rights abuses, helps secure redress or compensation for Human Rights violation victims, enlightens and sensitize the general public on possible Human Rights violations, assists law enforcement officials and Human Rights groups to track down cases of abuses and finally educates the people on how to use appropriate communication channels to articulate their views and give expressions to their aspirations.
 Rights- Meaning and Theories, available at: https://www.civilserviceindia.com/subject/Political-Science (visited on 21 February 2018)
 Paulose M. Abraham, “FREEDOM OF PRESS: COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF INDIAN AND AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEMS”, JCIL Vol. 2 Issue 3
 1950 AIR 124
 1994 SCR (1) 682
 1986 AIR 515
 M.P Jain, The Constitution of India (Kamal Law House, Calcutta, 5th edn., 1998).
 Hon’ble Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu,26 November 2015
 Ebid 2
 Ebid 7
 Victoria Chioma Nwankwo, THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS: An analysis of the BBC documentary, ‘Chocolate: the bitter truth’(2011) (Unpublished PhD. Thesis, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg)
 Viju Cherian, “JNU row: Perfect case study to show how media is losing its credibility”, The Hindustan Times, Sunday June 10, 2018.