`Media should self-regulate, ward off regulator`

Self-regulation by the Indian media is better than external agencies breathing down its reportage, experts said at an event.

New Delhi: Self-regulation by the Indian media is better than external agencies breathing down its reportage, experts said at an event here even as the Supreme Court constitution bench is hearing a plea for framing guidelines to regulate media coverage of court proceedings.

"A body like the Press Council of India with respected people to enforce the code of conduct" appears to be the only way, said international media watcher Robin Jeffrey, author of the book "India`s Newspaper Revolution".

"No English (media) speaking country has come with any satisfactory way (answer). But self-regulation seems to be the only option," Jeffrey said fielding questions at the Rajendra Mathur memorial lecture at the India International Centre here this weekend. The event was organised by the Editors` Guild of India.

Jeffrey, who has been a journalist in Canada, and has also lived and worked in India, Australia and Singapore, believes that distortions troubling Indian media reporting would vanish as "has happened in other countries".

A "regulator is unlikely to fix that cause of the problem" because at the end of the day, the regulator is going to censure you, and with the passage of time that means nothing.

Striking a similar note, former chief justice JS Verma said, "I shudder to think if the government were to step in what would happen."

"Babus (clerks) would be deciding how the media should behave," he said.

The government taking over media regulation would be "sad and self-regulation would be better", Justice Verma said cautioning mediapersons that the "government was itching to do it".

Pointing to such a scenario, Justice Verma said "it would be very demeaning", and that by exercising self-restraint, the media should protect its self-esteem.

Asking mediapersons to be "accurate, credible and shun sensationalism", Justice Verma said even under Article 19 (1) (a) reasonable restriction could be imposed.

He said he was glad that leading legal experts like Fali Nariman and Soli Sorabjee have opposed the plea for putting in place guidelines on media reporting and said they know what had happened during Emergency in 1975.

Having cautioned mediapersons on the pitfalls of regulation, Verma said, "It is better to let some obnoxious branch grow than allow someone to strike at the roots of tree."

IANS

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