Media 'highly polarised', people 'forget where to draw lines': Bombay High Court on 'media trial' in SSR case

Both Zee News and India TV argued in court that they had not crossed the 'Lakshman Rekha' in their coverage.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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A division bench of the Bombay High Court continued to hear PILs today seeking a restraining order against the "media trial" in the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The PILs were filed by eight former senior police officers from Maharashtra, as well as activists, lawyers and NGOs.

In a previous hearing on Wednesday, the court had asked if Republic TV’s reportage in the SSR case was “investigative journalism”, observing that news channels had appeared to have disregarded basic norms and etiquettes of journalism.

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority had earlier maintained that self-regulatory mechanisms already in place were effective on the media and government interference was unwarranted.

According to LiveLaw, Zee News’ counsel Ankit Lohia asserted today that the channel had not "crossed any lines" in reporting the SSR case. “I am not saying that no one should regulate us. We are not the ones who have crossed the lines and the entire industry has not crossed the lines,” said Lohia.

The bench responded that since the media is now "highly polarised”, this was not a question of regulation, but of checks and balances, and “people forget where to draw lines”.

India TV’s senior advocate Alankar Kirpekar argued that the network “abides by rules of NBA and there is nothing on record to show that India TV or its editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma has crossed the Lakshman Rekha towards Mumbai Police or any third party", LiveLaw reported.

Senior advocate Devdutt Kamat, appearing for the petitioner, contended that there is a "binding contract" between the government and the broadcaster and, according to the terms of the Cable TV Networks Act, every broadcaster has to abide by the programme code and advertising code.

On the question of regulation, he pointed out that "we are not in a virgin area".

Believing that self-regulation can be an addition but not a substitute, Kamat brought up the "doomsday argument" that government control on media will lead to emergency and abuse is advanced, stating that "creases must be ironed".

The next hearing will take place on October 29.


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