The Centre has urged the Supreme Court to frame guidelines for curbing hateful, insidious and communal content on digital media instead of making a fresh attempt to regulate the content of print and electronic media.
The Union ministry of information and broadcasting, in an affidavit filed in the top court on Thursday, said there was no need to lay down any fresh guidelines balancing journalistic freedom and responsibilities regarding the print and electronic media.
The suggestion from the Centre came after a three-judge bench of the apex court on September 15 restrained Sudarshan TV from airing a programme for allegedly insinuating that Muslims were infiltrating the civil services as part of a larger conspiracy.
While stopping further telecast of the serial, an order extended till Friday, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph expressed keenness to frame guidelines for the electronic media.
“Even if the SC considers it appropriate to undertake the said exercise, there is no justification to confine this exercise only to mainstream electronic media. The media includes mainstream electronic media, mainstream print media as well as a parallel media namely digital print media and digital web-based news portals and YouTube channels as well as over the top platforms (OTTs),” the affidavit said.
“While in mainstream media, the publication/telecast is a one-time act, digital media has faster reach from wider range of viewership/readership and has the potential to become viral because of several electronic applications such as Whatsapp, Twitter and FB,” the I&B ministry said.
In the affidavit, the I&B ministry said the Supreme Court had already dealt with the issues of “hate speech” and “content regulation of TV and radio shows” in its 2014 and 2018 judgments.
“The fact situation in each case shall have to be decided on a case-to-case basis and a broader exercise which is too general in nature is neither warranted nor permissible,” the ministry said.
The ministry further said: “The present petition be confined to only one channel, namely Sudarshan TV, and the SC may not undertake the exercise of laying down any further guidelines with or without appointment of an amicus or a committee of persons as amicus.”