Apr 5, 2010

Should the freedom of press be absolute?

The Indian Constitution, in Article 19(1) (a) provides for the freedom of speech and expression. It has been held that this right to freedom also includes the freedom of press. It is a deduced right since the press is taken to be a way of stating a citizen of a country. Freedom of press should not be absolute as it would be a Utopian concept to some. Allowing certain reasonable restrictions that keep the freedom under check and thereby, not absolute is a better option.

In most countries, freedom of the press implies that every person should have the right to express themselves in writing or in any other way of expression of a personal opinion or creativity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers"

The freedom of the press is different from other liberties of the people in the fact that it is both individual and institutional. It applies not just to a single individual's right to publish ideas, but also to the right of print and broadcast media to express their views and to cover and publish news. A free press is, therefore, one of the foundations of a democratic society like India.

Historically, restriction of the freedom of press has happened in two ways. The first is censorship by the government before publication; the second is punishment for printed material, especially that considered by the government to be ‘seditious libel’, i.e., material that may “excite disaffection” against constituted authority.
There will always be certain restrictions imposed on the power of the press.

It has been frequently alleged, especially in India, that the freedom of the press is in danger because the ownership of the newspaper industry is in the predominance of a few newspaper groups and chains. It is also suggested that the editors and journalists do not have adequate freedom of collecting facts and offering opinions as they are under the pressure of the capitalist owners and the government. In this situation, the press cannot be free.

Free press is free press. There are bad guys in every profession and there will be bad media persons too! The trade should be robust enough to handle these people. When media is controlled by corporates, it is not free. So, freedom is a relative term. Freedom for whom?


bluedreamer27 said...

hi there rohini, thanks for leaving a kind comment in my blog, i really appreciate that.. i will now follow your blog, hope to see you again in my blog
have a great day and happy blogging..
btw its nice to be here

sanaya said...

Hmm. Perhaps this article is mis-titled. What I mean is that your title led me to think that you would argue for or against free press, but it wound up giving a sketch of status quo. Your sketch was perfectly fine, however. Perhaps you could have explored in depth the issue of publications being biased because of who owns the publication-this is an issue in India, and would make an interesting topic for a research paper.

The whole topic of free speech is a livewire in the debating arena, and I've done many debates on this, both for and against. My most memorable debate on this was at the all-Asian tournament, where my side had to argue hard for the government curbing freedom of speech-something that is not easy to do! The wonderful thing about being the government side in a debate, however, is that as the opening speaker I had the freedom to paint status quo any way I wanted and twist things around.

Anyway that's enough rambling.....my point is that this is a very interesting issue, and one that can never be unanimously won by arguments from either side. I suggest that you start reading the Economist magazine if you do want to start arguing in your blog. The Economist has some of the best arguments on issues, and the articles are always well-researched and give a balanced perspective. The Economist is the Bible when it comes to teaching debaters how to argue!