NHRC not to intervene in media guidelines issue
New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has decided not to intervene in the Supreme Court proceedings on framing media guidelines for court reporting but flagged concerns about the press breaching privacy laws and rights of accused.
The decision not to intervene in the matter, which is being heard at present by a Bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia, was taken at a recent sitting of the Commission presided by Chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan.
"NHRC is a formal party in that litigation. But we decided it is a matter between media and the court. We have no role to play. Ultimately, the court has to decide what should be done. So, we decided not to reply or counter it. We are not intervening," Balakrishnan, a former Chief Justice of India, told a news agency in an interview.
The Supreme Court constituted a bench to frame media guidelines following "misreporting" of certain proceedings in the court as well as reporting matters which were yet to come to the court.
The case has been vigorously argued in the court with some senior lawyers opposing any attempt to frame guidelines saying it would amount to curbing free speech while one senior lawyer has welcomed it.
Balakrishnan said the problem is that of competition in media and "inexperienced" journalists.
"The problem of electronic media is somebody is saying something from a distant place and it is directly transmitted. There is no editing or intervention of seniors. They are all young journalists," he said.
"It is very difficult to edit and control such things in electronic media...I don`t say it is done intentionally. It is inadvertent or inexperience without knowing the consequences of the statements," he said.
Balakrishnan said NHRC was not going to frame any guidelines for reporting of human rights issues but advocated the need for self restraint by media itself.
"No, we do not want to issue any guidelines...It is not like the court reporting. Court reporting sometimes affects the privacy rights, rights of children, rights of the accused," he said.
When pointed out that he himself was Chief Justice of India and whether he thought that media had gone overboard, he said, sometimes it appeared so though not all reports could be painted with the same brush.
"Every accused is entitled to fair trial. We have seen sometimes some investigation materials are published. I have seen some of the materials, even some private letters, have appeared in media even before it reaches court.
"People have an obsessed mind that they pronounce the accused guilty even before court takes a final view of it. Ultimately, it may come out to be nothing but irrelevant publication. Such publication should be avoided. Media should itself take care of it," he said.
He said in countries like England media will never publish a naked photo of a body and that they are very careful even without court directions.
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