New Delhi: Press Council of India Chairman
Justice Markandey Katju has sought "more teeth" for the
regulatory body and expansion of its ambit over the electronic
media and Internet for which, he suggested, a legislation
should be introduced in the Parliament.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Katju said
the only power conferred on the Press Council under section
14(1) of the Act is to "warn, admonish or censure the
newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist".
"Experience has shown that a mere warning, admonition or
censure does not ordinarily have any effect on the concerned
newspaper, news agency editor or journalist, as they tend to
ignore the same," he said in his letter, now made public under
the RTI Act.
"Some more teeth should be given to the Press Council.
Among the various suggestion which have been made by the Press
Council earlier for taking action against those who violate
journalistic ethics are: imposition of fine, withdrawal of
government advertisement, suspension/cancellation of
license/accreditation," he said.
He said legislation should have provisions for
persuasion and discussion with the "delinquent" news
organisation or news person and only when such methods become
ineffective, harsher steps should be initiated against them.
Katju said, "this provision, in my opinion is necessary
because while the defects in the media should ordinarily be
sought to be rectified by the democratic method of discussion
and persuasion, there must be power in the Press Council to
take harsher steps where discussion and persuasion has proved
to be ineffective." In the letter, Katju urged for renaming the body as MediaCouncil, which should include electronic media and Internet as
the present Press Council Act only deals with print media.
"The electronic media including the television and
Internet should be brought within the purview of the Act by a
suitable amendment," the former Supreme Court judge has said.
The letter dated October 11 which has been provided to
activist Subhash Agrawal, Katju quoted his recent speech to
say there is no freedom which is absolute and hence the
freedom of the media cannot also be an absolute one.
Katju said while media must have freedom to perform its
functions properly with a sense of responsibility.
"There is a growing perception in the public that
sometimes the media goes overboard and acts irresponsibly only
to sensationalise the matter," he said.
On the issue of expanding the scope of the Press Council
to electronic media and the Internet, the former Supreme Court
judge said both the national level parties in Parliament seem
to be in agreement with this proposal as he attached an email
from BJP leader Prakash Javdekar who is also the member of