Against any legislation to restrain media: Moily
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 09, 2010, 22:52
New Delhi: Observing that the government and the media have a common interest in protecting democracy and the people, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily on Tuesday said he was against any legislation to "restrain" the role of the fourth estate.

"Government and the media have a common interest in defending people and democracy...the Government should work towards harnessing the power of media, which is not happening," Moily said.

The Law Minister said he was "against any legislation to restrain media. I favour an affirmative media policy based on transparency."

He was addressing a seminar on crime investigation and the role of media. "Even India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had favoured a free media," he added.

Speaking on the occasion, CBI Director Ashwini Kumar said at times even before an investigation is started by enforcement agencies, media had pronounced judgement and it has not ended in one conviction in such cases.

"Whether you call it Satyendra Dubey (NHAI engineer killed in Bihar), you call it Bofors, you quote any case. The Jain hawala case. Everything was in the media. What happened in the end," Kumar asked.

He also said that the best way to avoid media getting half-baked stories was self-restraint. "I cannot restrain anybody...I can only restrain myself. Therefore, the police agencies must restrain themselves when they talk to the media," he said.

IG (Operations) of the National Investigation Agency Loknath Behra said pictures of accused appearing in media often created problems during the test identification parade (TIP) -- where the witness identifies the accused -- as it can become "influenced".

He said during the IC-814 hijacking case, the pictures of the accused were splashed in newspapers. "Though they (accused) are not in India, when they come, the TIP can be affected," he said.

Over the ongoing debate on whether media is exceeding its limits with regard to trials of criminal cases, Justice Pradeep Nandrajog from the Delhi High Court termed it as a clash between two values of a democratic society.

He said the right to freedom of speech and information as well as the right to have a fair trial are two important values and one can not think of a civil society without any of these two values.

"This is the time where we need to have a harmonious balance...," said Justice Nandrajog while citing the comments of some foreign authors over the issue.

Journalist Pankaj Vora said problem begins when police tries to hide information from mediapersons.

He appreciated the role of the media in countering pressures to influence any investigation.

Another journalist Pankaj Pachauri said the electronic media has framed guidelines for itself. "But when we go wrong, the people should complain. Now we have a system for that," he said adding that the 'chalta hai' attitude has to end.

Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Ajay Kashyap said at times journalists lack sensitivity to understand what is at stake.

"The way the media has been covering the encounter in Jamia Nagar in which we lost one inspector...the subsequent investigation led to the apprehension of one of the two people who actually got away in the encounter.

"Over the last year and a half, we have been facing certain criticism that the police version of the events was not correct....the arrest of one of the accused by another state police strengthened the story of the police put before the courts," he said expressing his "personal views".


First Published: Tuesday, February 09, 2010, 22:52

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