Freedom of the press and media is part of the freedom of speech. It is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a). But should there be a limit to media freedom or not? The limit to media freedom is a debatable issue.

The Media

In my opinion, self-regulated media is a mid-way between the two extremes. Media has been considered one of the most powerful weapons in a democracy to promote awareness. Indian media was also seen quite active during the pandemic, giving us a daily record of active corona cases. It was exposing the hospitals charging a humongous amount of bills from covid patients. The media was also quite successful at spreading awareness regarding natural calamities such as the Amphan cyclone, Nisarga cyclone.

Freedom of the media is necessary. However, the amount of misinformation, data manipulation, and fake news has made us reconsider the freedom granted to the media by our Indian constitution. In recent times, we witnessed the media diverting people’s attention from real issues like unemployment, GDP, women’s safety and rather focusing on issues like the personal lives of celebrities.

The Issue

People’s ideologies are played by the media. We believe whatever they show us. We had witnessed incidences where media has played an active role in spreading hatred between communities, religious groups. Individuals are defamed by social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. Such practices are totally unethical. Media should not be allowed to misinform and mislead people for their personal or for any kind of political gain. Government interventions may jeopardize freedom of expression. So, self-regulated media seem to be the only way to promote a balance in society.

Freedom of the media is a group effort and when individuals, organizations, and governments come together to preserve and promote it, everyone enjoys the benefits. Self-regulated media is a conscious decision of the media where they make it a responsibility to provide authentic information to the users. Accordingly, if the media fails to shoulder this responsibility and goes to extreme measures or gets biased, then it must be regulated- self or by legal provisions. It’s high time that the media realizes it on its own when their speech becomes slanderous or harmful. 

The Dilemma – Should we have a limit to media freedom?

It’s hard to decide whether the media needs to be limited or not. No one enjoys being told what they can and cannot do. But we do need some restrictions to protect the honour and dignity of our citizens. It’s impossible to have pure freedom. Everything comes with a cost. Speech is no exception. But, the safety of the citizens should always be a priority and if that demands certain restrictions on media, then so be it.

The limit of media freedom is questionable. Speech is subjective in nature. Thus, it is difficult to determine what kind of speech should be subjected. This absence of clarity can easily be used by an oppressive government to influence, violate, and manipulate the natural rights of political minorities. 

“Media trial” is one of the most popular phrases used in recent times where media has come forward to investigate the truth and describe the entire case according to their own opinions. It not only harms the reputation of the concerned person but also leads to a widespread perception in the public’s view. Before being proven guilty by the judiciary the accused is seen with the eyes of suspicion and guilt. It is spreading the only information which might increase fan-base as well as popularity. 

In a democracy, the fourth pillar is media. To expose the wrongdoings and appreciate good deeds media is one of the most powerful weapons. Power is the nature of functioning and this organ of democracy is failing to provide a fair and free approach. 

Words are the manifestation of an ideology. The best way to suppress speech that is deemed hateful is not to suppress it, but to counter it with better, more reasonable ideas.