Centre to SC: not correct to say entire media is perpetrating hatred towards one community

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The Supreme Court of India. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Nov 17 – The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it is not correct to say that the entire media is perpetrating hatred towards one particular community, instead, wide-ranging views and opinions have been expressed across media platforms on the Tablighi Jamaat issue, which is not communal in nature.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in an affidavit, has defended the media reports in connection with the Tablighi Jamaat event, which was held in March. “As a matter of journalistic policy, any section of the media may seek to highlight different events, issues and happenings across the world as per their choice”, said the affidavit.

The Centre submitted a “regime of forbearance allowed different sections of the media to function with the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution”. This gives choice to the viewer either to see all or any sides of a particular view or to choose a particular side on any events, issues, and happenings across the world. The affidavit added that wide-ranging views and opinions have been expressed across media platforms on the Tablighi Jamaat issue, which is not communal in nature.

“News reports and other articles in this (Tablighi Jamaat) context have reflected multiple viewpoints of the stakeholders related to the events, and predominantly stuck to a balanced and neutral perspective,” said the affidavit.

The Centre has contended that access to different sections of the media, with varying journalistic policies, enables the viewer to know various sides of any political, social, economic, health, or even religious issue, which provides a choice on the source of knowledge or opinion.

The ministry has opposed the plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind against media coverage which demonized the Muslim community in the backdrop of the Tablighi event.

The Centre has pointed out that in the exercise of the statutory powers under the existing regime, the central government has issued several directions to prevent the dissemination of fake news leading to the abrogation of communal harmony.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has the power to issue directions for blocking of information by the public under section 69A of IT Act 2000 and Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.

During the month of March and April 2020, the PIB social media handle has done Covid-19 related fact checks in 119 cases appearing in the media, including 83 on social media, seven on television, three in print media, 15 on WhatsApp, and 11 on online news portals, it said.

However, the Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed strong displeasure on the Centre’s affidavit. The top court asked the Centre “to consider evolving a mechanism to address issues with content on TV, or else, the court may entrust it to an outside agency”.

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