Media and the Government: A Battle of Wills
Media forms the most crucial 4th pillar of democracy, bridging the gap between our ‘leaders’ and the people. Despite the Indian constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech, there are restrictions placed to the extent the media can exercise this right, but if the new IT policies move to fundamentally eradicate privacy is anything to go by, the government’s a little too drunk in power. It’s no secret that the government and the media often stand at odds, an image highlighted by Whatsapp’s recent move to sue the Indian Government. But how far back does this rivalry date? It’s a tale as old as the Indian State.
1947: Established the Press Enquiry Committee, to examine press laws in independent India.
1951: Press (Objectionable Matters) Act was passed empowering the government to demand and forfeit security for publication of “objectionable matter”.
1952: Cinematograph Act was passed to make provision for the certification and regulation of films, foundation of film censorship.
1954: Press Commission recommended establishing of All India Press Council, also banning crossword puzzle competitions.
1962: A Supreme Court judgement brought back sedition into the Constitution.
1975: Kissa Kursi Ka (1978), was refused a Censor Board certificate, the master print and negatives of the movie were confiscated and burnt. Sanjay Gandhi was found guilty, serving a month in jail. 25 June 1975: Internal Emergency imposed in India. The Emergency, one of the bleakest times for freedom of expression, remains the yardstick for measurement of freedom of press.
February 11, 1976: Three laws passed to regulate media, undid most of the previous security blankets placed to allow freedom of press. They were subsequently deemed unlawful by the post emergency government.
1978: Press Council of India Act passed, forming the Press Council of India. The PCI regulates code of conduct for the print media.
September 1988: Rajiv Gandhi attempted to bulldoze the defamation bill, a method to curb criminal imputation’ and ‘scurrilous writings’. The bill failed to become a law.
1995: Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act was enacted, establishing a prescribed ‘programme code’
2008: Section 66A of IT Act, makes it a punishable offence for any person to send 'grossly offensive' or 'menacing' information using a communication device.
Jan 2015: Secularism and Socialism are Removed from the Preamble Advertisement of the Government.
March 2015: Section 66A of IT act scrapped by supreme court, due to it being vague and difficult to judge.
August 2019: Mobile connections and internet services in Kashmir were shut down.
Nov 2020: 267 apps of Chinese origin banned to the Indian public
2020: 67 journalists arrested accounting for 40% of the total arrests of press in the last decade.
Feb 5 2021. High speed internet restored in Kashmir after 550 days, making it the world’s longest blackout, India the current world leader in the number of internet shutdowns.
Feb 25 2021: Govt issues new IT guidelines for social media, noncompliance of which could possibly end in a nationwide ban.
Sources - Economic times, prsindia.org