Tuesday, 19 August 2008

SC asks media to observe restraint:

NEW DELHI: The hounding by the media of Rajesh Talwar as a key suspect in the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case till he got a CBI clean chit made the Supreme Court on August 18 to ask aloud - Is there an urgent need for guidelines on responsible reporting of cases under investigation or pending trial?
The pitch was prepared by a PIL filed by advocate Surat Singh, who cited the case of Talwar and asked — Does media have a right to report whatever they please on the basis of police briefing, irrespective of the damage to the reputation and mental agony it inflicts on the accused?
A Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and Markandey Katju, which during the last hearing had observed that the media - both print and electronic - should exercise restraint while reporting the Aarushi case, on Monday agreed with the petitioner that the reporting of the case left a lot to be desired. It issued notices to the information and broadcasting ministry, Press Council of India, Uttar Pradesh government and media houses on the PIL seeking to put in place guidelines for the media for reporting cases under investigation and trial. It sought assistance of additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam in this matter.
“We want to lay down general guidelines and not target individuals,” the Bench said while posting the matter for further hearing on September 23. The respondents were asked to file their replies within two weeks. Both the print and electronic media, the bench said, had a powerful influence over the masses. “The media has to be more responsible. It must not do anything by which investigation be prejudiced against the accused,” it added.
Accepting criticism as part and parcel of public life, the Bench said it was not worried about the judiciary or the judges. “We have sufficiently broad shoulders. But we are concerned about the reputation of people like in this case, Dr Talwar,” it said.
So moved was the court by the plight of Dr Talwar that at the stage of mentioning of the PIL on July 22, the Bench had passed an interim order observing that the media, both print and electronic, should exercise restraint in its reporting so as not to tarnish the reputation of Talwar.
Continuing its interim order, that is tying the media with the leash of responsibility, the Bench clarified: “There is no attempt to gag the media. But media has to be responsible at the same time.”
Source: The Times of India, August 19, 2008

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