Mumbai: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Thursday (September 17) told the Supreme Court that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint an amicus or a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in the media. Just like the electronic media, the digital media too is impactful and has the potential to go viral, the government told the apex court.
The ministry, in its affidavit, has claimed, “Digital media has faster reach, potential to become viral due to apps like WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook… Digital media has serious impact and because of its potential, the court must first take up digital media.”
The ministry’s affidavit is a part of the petition filed against a private TV channel, Sudarshan TV, which had put out a promo of a show that claimed “Muslims are infiltrating” government services. The court had put the airing of the show on hold. “You cannot target one community and brand them in a particular manner,” the court had observed on September 15 before issuing a restraining order against the channel from airing its “UPSC Jihad” episodes on the show named “Bindas Bol”.
While putting a hold on the show, the court had termed India as a “melting pot of civilisations, cultures, religions and languages” and had said any attempt to vilify a religious community must be viewed with grave disfavour by this court as the custodian of constitutional values and its duty to enforce constitutional values demands nothing less.
The government today told the court that both TV channels and print media have enough regulation but it is the online space that goes unregulated. “Sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements” exist on electronic media and print media, the affidavit said, further adding that “The issue of balancing freedom of speech and responsible journalism has already been governed by statutory provisions and judgments.”
Besides commenting on the “need for regulation” on online platforms, the ministry also sought that the court confines the petition to only Sudarshan TV.
“Even if this honourable court considers it appropriate to undertake the said exercise, there is no justification to confine this exercise only to mainstream electronic media. The media includes mainstream electronic media, mainstream print media as well as a parallel media namely digital print media and digital web-based news portal and YouTube channels as well as ‘Over the Top’ platforms (OTT),” the ministry submitted in its affidavit. The matter will come up for the next for hearing on Friday.