“Print and electronic media plays a very important role in ensuring that there is no sensationalism and that they adhere to responsible journalism,” the Delhi High Court observed on Friday while hearing climate activist Disha Ravi’s petition seeking to restrain TV news channels such as India Today, News18 and Times Now from publishing “any alleged private chats between her and third parties”. However, the court added, the recent media coverage “definitely shows sensationalism”.
In her petition, Disha complained that the TV news channels had accused her of being associated with unlawful groups on the basis of her purported messages apparently leaked by the Delhi police.
Justice Pratibha M Singh, who heard the petition, observed that “leaked investigation material ought not to be disseminated so as to prejudice the investigation”. Giving the news channels named in the plea a week to file their replies, she directed them to ensure any news aired by them is from verified sources, though the sources need not be revealed.
Disha, 21, was arrested earlier this month by the Delhi police for “editing and sharing” a toolkit tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to mobilise support for the ongoing farmer protests. The police have alleged that the toolkit is evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” involving “pro-Khalistan groups” to tarnish India’s image and cause violence in the country.
Disha’s plea also sought directions to the media houses to abide by the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act. In response, the high court directed the TV channels to strictly adherence to the Programme Code of the Cable Television Networks Rules. It also directed them to follow the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards prescribed by the News Broadcasters Association.
Referring to the News18 coverage of the “toolkit case”, the judge remarked that content aired by news channels shouldn't be offensive or scandalising but, to the extent possible, factual.