The Press Council of India.
In some of the third world countries, and particularly India, the Press Council is a Statutory body. A Bill was introduced in the Parliament in 1956. But it lapsed with the dissolution of the House in 1957. No further action for setting the Council was taken for nearly a decade thereafter. It was only after National Integration Council strongly recommended the establishment of Council that the Bill was resurrected and the Press Council Act passed by the Parliament in 1965. The Press Council of India constituted under the Act came into being on 4th July, 1966.
The Press Council under the Act of 1965 was abruptly abolished by the Press Council Repeal Act, 1976 during the days of the 1975 National Emergency. In 1977 Janata Party came to power and they enacted the Press Council Act, 1978. The object of 1978 Act stated that the establishment of the Press Council was to preserve the Freedom of the Press and maintenance and improvement of the standard of newspapers and news agencies in India.
Under 1978 Act the Council consists of a Chairman and twenty eight members, of whom thirteen were to be nominated from among journalists including six, who were to be editors of newspapers. Of the remaining fifteen members, six were to be nominated from among persons who own or carry on the business of management of newspapers. Of them, three were to represent newspapers published in Indian languages, and those published in other languages. Of the three belonging to each category one each was to be the representative of the big newspapers, medium newspapers and small newspapers. One person was to be nominated from among persons managing news agencies. Of the remaining Eight members three were to be persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of education, literature law and culture, of whom one each was to be nominated by the University Grants Commission, Bar Council of India and Sahitya Academy respectively. The remaining five members were to be chosen from members of the Parliament; three are to be from Lok Sabha and two from the Rajya Sabha. The term of members including that of the Chairman was three years. The Press Council has two important functions:
* Watchdog of journalistic Ethics3 and
* A shield to Freedom of the Press4.
I) WATCH DOG OF JOURNALISTIC ETHICS:
Section 26 of the Act empowers the Council to frame regulations for conducting inquiries. The Council has framed the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979.
How to make a Complaint?
Any person making a complaint to the Council in respect of a publication or non-publication of any matter under Section 14(l) of the Act, should furnish in the complaint the following details.
a) Name and address of the newspaper or news agency, editor or other working journalist against whom or which the complaint is preferred5.
b) A Statement showing in what manner the publication and non-publication of the matter complained of is objectionable6.
c) A copy of the letter written by the complainant to the newspaper or news agency, or editor or other working journalist bringing the matter to his notice, together with a copy of reply if any received. However, in appropriate cases the Chairman has discretion to waive the condition7.
d) In cases where the complaint is that the editor or working journalist has committed a professional misconduct other than by way of publication or non-publication, the complainant shall set out clearly in detail the facts, which according to him justify the complaint8.
The complaint relating to publication or non publication of any matter has to be preferred within two months if the complaint is against editor, news agency and weekly, and within four months in all other cases.
The complainant while presenting the complaint shall at the foot there of make and subscribe to a declaration to the effect9.
i) that to the best of his knowledge and belief he has placed all the relevant facts before the Council and that no proceedings are pending in any court of law in respect of any matter alleged in the complaint.
ii) that he shall inform the Council forthwith if during the pendency of the inquiry before the Council any matter alleged in the complaint becomes the subject matter of any proceeding in any court of law.
As soon as a complaint is received, and in any case not later than 15 days from the date of receipt of a complaint, a copy thereof shall be sent to the newspaper, news agency, or other working journalist against whom the complaint is made, with a notice requiring him to show cause why action should not be taken under the Act. In appropriate case the Chairman may waive the condition regarding the issue of notice. If the chairman is of opinion that there is no sufficient ground for holding an inquiry, no notice need be issued. However, at the next meeting of the Council the Chairman shall apprise the Council of the reasons for his decision for not issuing the notice.
The person, against whom the complaint is preferred, has to submit a written statement within fourteen days from the service of the notice or such extended time as may be granted by the Chairman. On its receipt, a copy thereof shall be forwarded to the complaint for information. If further details are required, the Chairman may call for them from the complainant or the respondent.
The inquiry committee constituted by the Council may consider the complaint and written statement and call for additional particulars or documents if required. Section 8. (1) of the Act empowers the Council to constitute from amongst its members any committee for the purpose. of performing its functions. Inquiries in the case of complaints made by or against the Press are conducted by the committee so constituted.
Inquiry committee consisted or fourteen members. The committee examined the documents produced before the Council and hear the parties and witnesses. Before or in the course of the proceedings the Committee may consider the following things:
i) Whether the complainant has any locus standi;
ii) Whether the Council has jurisdiction; and
iii) Whether any issue relating to the subject matter of the complaint is sub judice.
When criticism levelled against any individual personally in a newspaper, right to reply is available to the affected person and no third person has locus standi. The principle was highlighted by the Council in Dr. Sathyanarayanan Dave v. Indian Express10. -the facts of the case discloses that Indian Express in its issue dated May 6, 1988 published an editorial under the caption ‘Remove the Fabrications’. lauding a judgement of the Supreme Court in acquitting a person in a prosecution launched by the CBI. The impugned editorial not only criticised the prime investigating agency of the country for fabricating evidence but also held Mohan Katre, Director of CBI, for converting it into hatchets of the rules. In a letter to the Editor, Dr. Satyanarayana Dave, a journalist, protested against the personal remarks against Mohan Katre. This letter was not, published and Dr. Satyanarayana Dave field a complaint before the Council. The senior editor of Indian Express submitted before the Council that publication of letters to the editor was purely a matter of discretion. He further maintained that the impugned editorial did not contain anything which affected the complainant personally, and that no material to rebut the criticism against Katre was produced. It was maintained that Katre alone was competent to protest. The Council concluded that the complainant was not personally affected by the editorial and had no locus standi. The rule of locus standi ensures that the process of the Council shall not normally be invoked at the instance of a person who has no special stake or interest in the matter11. Similarly when the allegations pertain to the commission of some corrupt practice, any other person may not be in a position to contradict the allegation.
There are exceptions to the rule. In C. S. Kalra v. Arun Shouriel2 the complaint related to the publication of the report in Indian Express containing filthy words used by the Deputy-Prime Minister. The editor contended that the complainant had no locus standi. The complainant submitted that use of such filthy words was detrimental to public taste and asserted locus standi as it was a matter or public interest. Here the complainant was not challenging the veracity of the report, but only that such publication was detrimental to public interest. The Council proceeded with the inquiry into the complaint and held that the editor could have made the report after excluding the offensive words. This shows that any interested person can lodge a complaint if filthy, vulgar, or abusive words are used in any published matter. If defamatory matter about a religious leader is published, a devotee or disciple has locus standi to move complaint.
In a major decision on jurisdiction, the Council ruled in Dr. A. K. Sukhla v. Comparative Physiology and Ecology13 that the Council had no jurisdiction to inquire into an instance of breach of contract. The complaint pertained to alleged false assurances given by the editor about publication of complainant research papers. According to him he had fulfilled all conditions laid by the journal for publication. The Council held that the substance of the complaint was breach of contract between them and as such there was no reasonable nexus between the matter and the functions of the Council. Therefore the Council had no jurisdiction.
The Press Council will not take action on a complaint if it is pending in any court of law. This is treated as sub-judice. This was made clear in Dr. S. V. Charupure v. Middayl4, here the complainant’s suit is pending before Bombay High Court. The Council therefore decided to drop further inquiry.
Section 4(3) of the Press Council Act prohibits the Council to hold an inquiry in any matter in respect of which any proceeding is pending in any court of law.
Every profession requires its own ethical standard. It is the code of honour of professional conduct which distinguish a profession from a mere occupation16. The speciality of journalistic profession is its independence. In a profession it is necessary that they should be judged by his peer and the function is to be so exercised as to achieve the objective of exemplary professional conduct.
The Press Council in Norms of Journalistic Conduct states the Principles and Ethics that the fundamental objective of journalism is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decent manner. Towards this end, the Press is expected to conduct itself in keeping with certain norms of professionalism universally recognised. The norms enunciated below, when applied with due discernment and adaptation to the varying circumstance of each case, will help the journalist to self-regulate his or her conduct. The norms are Accuracy and Fairness, Pre-publication Verification, Caution against defamatory writing, Parameter for the right of the Press to comment on the acts and conduct of public officials, right to privacy, recording interviews and phone conservation, Conjecture, comment and fact, Newspapers to eschew suggestive guilty, corrections, right of reply, letters to editor, obscenity and vulgarity to be eschewed, violence not to be glorified, glorification/encouragement of social evils to be eschewed, covering communal disputes/ clashes, heading not to be sensational/ provocative and must justify the matter printed under them, caste, religion or community references, reporting on natural calamities, paramount national interest, newspapers may expose misuse of diplomatic immunity, investigative Journalism and its norms and parameters, confidence to be respected, caution in criticising judicial acts, newspapers to avoid crass commercialism, plagiarism, unauthorised lifting of news, non-return of unsolicited material and advertisements. Also Council issued some guidelines on specific issues.
II. A SHIELD TO FREEDOM OF PRESS
It is open to any person to lodge a complaint with the Press Council against a newspaper for breach of ethical canons of journalistic propriety and public taste. The Press can approach the Council alleging interference with its free functioning. In such a case only a newspaper, a journalist or any institution or individual concerned with a journal can appear as a complainant. They may complain against Central Government, State Government or any organization like political parties. The article attempts to analyse the nature and effect of such complaints made by the newspapers before the Press Council.
Under the Press Council (Procedure of Inquiry) Regulation, 197917 the Press or a person may complain against an authority. It should contain full particulars about the alleged.infringement of the freedom of the Press. As regards its role the Council has stated that it serves two useful purposes, viz. i) that any abuse of Press freedom does not pass without anybody noticing it or raising a finger of protest; and
ii) that the Press should not in its own interest, indulge in scurrilous or other objectionable writings – writings such as have been considered below the level of recognised standards of journalistic ethics by a fair-minded jury like the Council constituted of the Press itself, for it would lead to the very loss of the much prized freedom of the Press18.The Council performs the functions such as helping newspapers and news agencies to maintain independence and keeping under review any development likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance19. The Council exercises against the authority and pronouncing verdict thereon. The Council has been empowered to make in any of its decisions or reports such observation, as it may think fit, about the conduct of any authority including a government20.
Press freedom depends on the absence of pressure from various power centres like ministers, legislators, administrators, party bosses etc. The Press and newsmen have been the victims of onslaught from various sources. The tendency of the administration is to make the Press tow the official line. They try to intimidate the Press and journalists who are goaded to act under dictation.
An analysis of the complaints received by the Council shows three types of fetters or threats:
(1) Violence against newsmen;
(2) Denial of facilities to the Press; and
(3) Curtailment of Press freedom
1) Violence against newsmen
In this type the affected party is exposed to physical injury or serious threats. The study of the adjudications relating to the type may be divided into four major sub-headings:
(a) Police atrocities;
(b) Pressure and assault by political parties;
(c) Attacks by anti-social elements; and
(d) Pressure and assault by government.
(a) Police atrocities: This may arise when police are involved in a matter and want to shield themselves from being exposed through news column. This may happen when the police either engage in anti-social activities or take side with anti-social elements.
The Council has opined that the high handed conduct of the police directly affects the freedom of Press. In Chief Editor, Sainik v. Police Official of Fatehabad, Agra2l the Chief Editor of Sainik alleged that policemen were directed to beat the correspondent and cameraman while compiling news concerning elections to School of Agricultural Productivity. He further alleged that the cameras were snatched away and that all the lyres of their jeep were deflated. The motive alleged was that they had published a news item concerning the affairs of police post at Daoki in Agra. The respondent contended that a prohibitory order near the election booth was in force and the police had to push away people who were within the area. It was also argued that the tyres of the jeep were deflated in enforcement of their duties. The Inquiry Committee refused to accept the defence and further observed that the complaint contained truth and therefore the Council deplored the conduct of police to the extent that it obstructed exercise of the freedom of Press by the journalist.
(b) Pressure and assault by political parties: Political parties control the levers of power and guide the destinies of modern democracies. Press also has a crucial role to play in the functioning of democratic government. Thus the relationship between political parties on the one hand and Press on the other becomes a sensitive subject. From the sociological point of view both Press and political parties are group of persons. Hence interaction between these groups has their impact on society. One aspect of such interaction is, how far political parties try to curtail Press Freedom both covertly and overtly.
What role could the Press Council play in such a sensitive field is indeed a baffling question. In Malayala Manorama v. Youth Wing of Communist Party of India & Govt. of Kerala22, the complainant alleged that there were attacks on their office premises at Kottayam, Calicut and Cochin by the youth wing of the CPI. The State Government submitted that criminal cases had been registered against certain leaders and workers in that connection. The Council deferred the matter as sub-juidice. The Council observed that raids in newspaper offices by unruly mobs interfered with the freedom of Press and hence was regrettable. In such situations suitable precautionary and protective measures ought to be taken by the administration.
(c) Attacks by anti-social elements: Complaints of attacks and threats by antisocial groups reach the council when the police refuses to take effective action promptly. In such cases the government invariably assures the Council that necessary action would be taken and the matter ends amicably.
In Aaj Ki Jandhta v. Government of Madhya Pradesh23, the complaint stated that there were anonymous threats f from anti-social elements after publishing a critical news item about the Congress (I) leader, Mr. Arjun Singh. The Public Relation Department stated that instruction had been issued by the Police Headquarters to be watchful and to give reasonable protection to the editor.
(d) Pressure and assault by government: In a democratic country the government is supposed to exercise vast powers conferred on it for the welfare of the society. But these powers are often misused for private gains or exercised on corrupt motives or arbitrarily and capriciously. In such cases the Press helps the people to know what the government has been doing. But this involves the wrath of the administration and retaliation.
In President, AISMNF v. Delhi Administration24, the complainant alleged that the daily was harassed by Delhi Administration for an article reproduced from one of the leading weeklies published from Delhi. An FIR was lodged against the daily and as a consequence the advertisements to the paper were stopped. The Deputy Secretary, Home, admitted that according to the screening committee, the content of the article was not objectionable and hence it was decided to drop the police case and restore advertisement.
2) Denial of facilities to the Press
Often authorities use their power discriminately in granting accreditation to newsmen or denial or registration or in releasing advertisement to papers. They may use this to force a newspaper to tow the official line. Same policy is often followed by them in restricting telephone or postal facilities etc. This may amount to indirect restriction of freedom of Press.
(a) Accreditation: The Central Press Accreditation Committee (CPAC) is a body constituted by the Central Government. The Committee has framed rules containing norms for accreditation to ensure uniformity in matters relating to accreditation throughout the country. The rules framed by CPAC in February, 1978 were amended in September, 1979. The amended rules 5 and 6 were questioned before the Council in Indian Federation of Working Journalists v. Central Press Accreditation Committe25. Here the Council formulated the following principles:
a) Although editors are generally denied accreditation, editors who are proprietors with limited resources may need accreditation facilities;
b) In giving accreditation to the editors CPAC would have the discretion to limit the facility to deserving cases;
c) A journalist with a long and distinguished service may be given such facility for regular accreditation as a matter of prestige;
d) CPAC has discretion in giving accreditation to elderly journalism by keeping their number at the optimum level. However, this facility should not be used for claiming touring facility; and
e) Denying accreditation to editors and journalists would affect the freedom of the Press because it creates a distinction among the journalists. This would interfere with their free expression of views.
(b) Registration: The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 provides for the registration of newspapers. Often difficulties in getting registration arise. According to the Council, mere delay in granting registration does not ‘ amount to violation of Press freedom. The Council enunciated the following principles for eliminating unnecessary delay in getting registration 26.
i) Ensuring the supply of a sufficient number of declaration forms and their easy availability;
ii) Prescribing a time limit not exceeding a week or ten days for seeking instructions from Registrar of Newspapers for authentication of a declaration; and
iii) Expeditious disposal of applications, seeking instructions for authentication of declaration.
(c) Advertisement: Imposing control over supply of governmental advertisements is one of the extra-legal devices
to influence the Press. During the period of Emergency the Government effectively wielded this to control newspapers. In Dainik Sambad v. Government of Tripura27, the complainant alleged that the Government was indicated against
the newspaper because its editorials were critical of the administration. The Government being influenced by political consideration had denied advertisement to it.
(d) Other facilities: The Press Council has the right to entertain and adjudicate complaints involving denial of other facilities like telegraph, teleprinter, railway concession etc. Thus it is the duty of the Council to examine whether the authority exercised the discretion properly or arbitrarily.
3. Curtailment of Press Freedom
In Saranga Correspondent v. Haryana Roadways28 shows how an interference by a journalist in favour of a boy who was travelling ticket less and was being manhandled by the employees of the State Road Transport Corporation, resulted in a cold war between the media and the Corporation. The Council observed that the Roadways and the Press were both institutions of public service working in a democracy. It expressed the hope that in future the complainant and the staff of the respondent would perform their respective role of public service in amity and peace with each other.
1 . In 1975 the number of councils was 25 according to Clement Johne, the famous editor and number of the Commonwealth Press Union. In 1980 the figures of media and Press Councils rose to 50 according to the Mc-Bride Report.
2. Press Complaints Commission was established in 1991.
3. This phrase is used by the author in his article ‘Press Council: A Watchdog of Journalistic Ethics” XVI Academy
Law Review (1 992) 71
4. This title is given by the author in his article ‘Press Council: A Shield to Freedom of Press”. XVII Academy Law
Review (1 993) 89.
5. Regulation 3(l) (a)
6. Regulation 3 1) (b)
7. Regulation 3(l) (c)
8. Regulation 3(l) (d)
9. Regulation 3(2)
1 0. (1 9989-90) A.R. 1 1 1.
1 1. Lalit Mohan Gautam v. Indian Express, (1 990-91) A.R. 1 22.
12. (1990-91) A.R. 1 01.
13. (1990-91) A.R. 1 00
14. (1989-90) A.R. 181
15. See Detailed discussion see Justice R. S. Sarkaria, A Guide to Journalistic Ethics (1 995) and Justice P. B. Sawant, Norms of Journalistic conduct (1996 Edn).
16. Justice V. S. Deshpande, Preface to Violation of Journalistic Ethics and Public Taste.
17. Regulation 3 of the Press Council (Procedure of Inquiry) Regulation, 1979.
18. (1990-91) A.R. 327
19. Section 13(2)(e) of the Press Council of India Act, 1978.
20. Section l4(l), Ibid.
21. (1989-90) A.R.40
22. (1983) P.C.1 Rev. 62 (January)
23. (1990-91) A.R. 37
24. (1989-90) A.R.29
25. (1980) A.R. 63
26. Searchlight v. Central Government, (1 97 1) A.R. 75
27. (1982) P.C. I Rev 27 (April)
28. (1990-91) A.R. 85
PRESS COUNCIL OF INDIA
NORMS OF JOURNALISTIC CONDUCT, August 1996
Principles and Ethics
The fundamental objective of journalism is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decent manner. Towards this end, the Press is expected to conduct itself in keeping with certain norms of professionalism universally recognised. The norms enunciated below and other specific guidelines appended thereafter, when applied with due discernment and adaptation to the varying circumstances of each case, will help the journalist to self-regulate his or her conduct.
Accuracy and Fairness
1) The press shall eschew publication of inaccurate, baseless, graceless, misleading or distorted material. All sides of the core issue or subject should be reported. Unjustified rumours and surmises should not be set forth as facts.
2) On receipt of a report or article of public interest and benefit containing imputations or comments against a citizen, the editor should check with due care and attention its factual accuracy – apart from other authentic sources with the person or the organisation concerned to elicit his/her or its version, comments or reaction and publish the same with due amendments in the report where necessary. In the even of lack or absence of response, a footnote to that effect should be appended to the report.
Caution against defamatory writings
3) Newspapers should not publish anything which is manifestly defamatory or libellous against any individual organisation unless after due care and checking, they have sufficient reason to believe that it is true and its publication will be for the public good.
4) Truth is no defence for publishing derogatory, scurrilous and defamatory material against a private citizen where no public interest is involved.
5) No personal remarks which may be considered or construed to be derogatory in nature against a dead person should be published except in rare cases of public interest, as the dead person cannot possibly contradict or deny those remarks.
6) The Press shall not rely on objectionable past behaviour of a citizen for basing the scathing comments with reference to fresh action of that person. If public good requires such reference, the Press should make pre-publication inquiries from the authorities concerned about the follow up action, if any, in regard to those adverse actions.
7) The Press has a duty, discretion and right to serve the public interest by drawing readers’ attention to citizens of doubtful antecedents and of questionable character but as responsible journalists they should observe restraint and caution in hazarding their own opinion or conclusion in branding these persons as ‘cheats’, ‘killers’ etc. The cardinal principle being that the guilt of a person should be established by proof of facts alleged and not by proof of bad character of the accused. In the zest to expose, the Press should not exceed the limits of ethical caution and fair comment.
8) Where the impugned publication are manifestly injurious to the reputation of the complainant, the onus shall be on the respondent to show that they were true or to establish that they constituted fair comment made in good faith and for the public good.
Parameters of the right of the Press to comment on the acts and conduct of public officials
9) So far as the government, local authority and other organs/institutions exercising governmental power are concerned, they cannot maintain a suit for damages for acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties unless the official establishes that the publication was made with reckless disregard for the truth. However, the judiciary, which is protected by the power to punish for contempt o court and the Parliament and Legislatures, protected as their privileges are by Articles 105 and 194 respectively, of the Constitution of India, represent exceptions to this rule.
10) Publication of news or comments/information on public officials conducting investigations should [not] have a tendency to help the commission of offences or to impede the prevention or detection of offences or prosecution of the guilty. The investigative agency is also under a corresponding obligation not to leak out or disclose such information or indulge in disinformation.
11) The Official Secrets Act, 1923, or any other similar enactment or provision having the force of law equally bind the press or media though there is not law empowering the state or its officials to prohibit, or to impose a prior restraint upon the Press/media.
12) Cartoons and caricatures in depicting good humour are to be placed In a special category of news that enjoys a more liberal attitude.
Right to Privacy
13) The Press shall not intrude or invade the privacy of an individual unless outweighed by genuine overriding public interest, not being a prurient or morbid curiosity. So, however, that once a matter becomes a matter of public record, the right to privacy no longer subsists and it becomes a legitimate subject for comment by Press and media among others.
Explanation: Things concerning a person’s home, family, religion, health, sexuality, personal life and private affairs are covered by the concept of PRIVACY excepting where any of these impinges upon the public or public interest.
14) Caution against identification: While reporting crime involving rape, abduction or kidnap of women/females or sexual assault on children, or raising doubts and questions touching the chastity, personal character and p;privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity shall not be published.
15) Minor children and infants who are the offspring of sexual abuse or “forcible marriage” or illicit sexual union shall not be identified or photographed.
Recording interviews and phone conversations
16) The Press shall not tape-record anyone’s conversation without that person’s knowledge or consent, except where the recording is necessary to protect the journalist in a legal action, or for other compelling good reason.
17) The Press shall, prior to publication, delete offensive epithets used by an interviewee in conversation with the Press person.
18) Intrusion through photography into moments of personal grief shall be avoided. However, photography of victims or accidents or natural calamity may be in larger public interest.
Conjecture, comment and fact
19) Newspaper should not pass on or elevate conjecture, speculation or comment as a statement of fact. All these categories should be distinctly stated.
Newspapers to eschew suggestive guilt
20) Newspapers should eschew suggestive guilt by association. They should not name or identify the family or relatives or associates of a person convicted or accused of a crime, when they are totally innocent and a reference to them is not relevant to the matter reported.
21) It is contrary to the norms of journalism for a paper to identify itself with and project the case of any one party in the case of any controversy/dispute.
22) When any factual error or mistake is detected or confirmed, the newspaper should publish the correction promptly with due prominence and with apology or expression of regrets in a case of serious lapse.
Right of reply
23) The newspaper should promptly and with due prominence publish either in full or with due editing, free of cost, at the instance of the person affection or feeling aggrieved/or concerned by the impugned publication, a contradiction/reply/clarification or rejoinder sent to the editor in the form of a letter or note. If the editor doubts the truth or factual accuracy of the contradiction/reply/clarification or rejoinder, he shall be at liberty to add separately at the end a brief editorial comment doubting its veracity, but only when this doubt is reasonably founded on unimpeachable documentary or other evidential material in his/her possession. This is a concession which has to be availed of sparingly with due discretion and caution in appropriate cases.
24) However, where the reply/contradiction or rejoinder is being published in compliance with the discretion of the Press Council, it is permissible to append a brief editorial note to that effect.
25) Right of rejoinder cannot be claimed through the medium of Press Conference, as publication of the news of a conference is within the discretionary powers of an editor.
26) Freedom of the Press involves the readers’ right to know all sides of an issue of public interest. An editor, therefore, shall not refuse to publish the reply or rejoinder merely on the ground that in his opinion the story published in the newspaper was true. That is an issue to be left to the judgement of the readers. It also does not behove an editor to show contempt towards a reader.
Letters to editor
27) An editor who decides to open his columns for letters on a controversial subject is not obliged to publish all the letters received in regard to that subject. Her is entitled to select and publish only some of them either in entirety or the gist thereof. However, in exercising this discretion, he must make an honest endeavour to ensure that what is published is not one-sided but represents a fair balance between the views for and against with respect to the principal issue in controversy.
28) In the event of rejoinder upon rejoinder being sent by two parties on a controversial subject, the editor has the discretion to decide at which stage to close the continuing column.
Obscenity and vulgarity to be eschewed
29) Newspapers/journalists shall not publish anything which is obscene, vulgar or offensive to public good taste.
30) Newspapers shall not display advertisements which are vulgar or which, through depiction of a woman in nude or lewd postures, provoke lecherous attention of males as if she herself was a commercial commodity for sale.
31) Whether a picture is obscene or not is to be judged in relation to three tests; namely
i) Is it vulgar and indecent?
ii) Is it a piece of mere pornography?
iii) Is its publication meant merely to make money by titillating the sex feelings of adolescents and among whom it is intended to circulate? In other words, does it constitute an unwholesome exploitation for commercial gain?
Other relevant considerations are whether the picture is relevant to the subject matter of the magazine. That is to say, whether its publication serves any preponderating social or public purpose, in relation to art, painting, medicine, research or reform of sex.
Violence not the be glorified
32) Newspapers/journalists shall avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robberies and terrorist activities in a manner that glorifies the perpetrators’ acts, declarations or death in the eyes of the public.
Glorification/encouragement of social evils to be eschewed
33) Newspapers shall not allow their columns to be misused for writings which have a tendency to encourage or glorify social evils like Sati Pratha or ostentatious celebrations.
Covering communal disputes/clashes
34) News, views or comments relating to communal or religious disputes/clashes shall be published after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution and restraint in a manner which is conducive to the creation of an atmosphere congenial to communal harmony, amity and peace. Sensational, provocative and alarming headlines are to be avoided. Acts of communal violence or vandalism shall be reported in a manner as may not undermine the people’s confidence in the law and order machinery of the State. Giving community-wise figures of the victims of communal riot or writing bout the incident in a style which is likely to inflame passions, aggravate the tension, or accentuate the strained relations between the communities/religious groups concerned, or which has a potential to exacerbate the trouble, shall be avoided.
Headings not to be sensational/provocative and must justify the matter printed under them.
35) In general and particularly in the context of communal disputes or clashes:
a. Provocative and sensational headlines are to be avoided;
b. Headings must reflect and justify the matter printed under them.
c. Headings containing allegations made in statements should either identify the body or the source making it, or at least carry quotation marks.
Caste, religion or community references
36) In general, the caste identification of a person or a particular class should be avoided, particularly when in the context it conveys a sense or attributes a conduct or practice derogatory to that caste.
37) Newspapers are advised against the use of the words ‘Scheduled Caste’ or ‘Harijan’ which has been objected to by some persons.
38) An accused or a victim shall not be described by his caste or community when the same does not have anything to do with the offence or the crime and plays no part either in the identification of any accused or proceeding, if there be any.
39) Newspapers should not publish any fictional literature distorting and portraying the religious characters in an adverse light, transgress the norms of literary taste, and offend the religious susceptibilities of large sections of society who hold those characters in high esteem, invested with attributes of the virtuous and lofty.
40) Commercial exploitation of the name of prophets, seers or deities is repugnant to journalistic ethics and good taste.
Reporting on natural calamities
41) Facts and data relating to the spread of epidemics or natural calamities shall be checked up thoroughly from authentic sources and then published with due restraint in a manner bereft of sensationalism, exaggeration, surmises or unverified facts.
Paramount national interest
42) Newspapers shall, as a matter of self-regulation, exercise due restraint and caution in presenting any news, comment or information which is likely to jeopardise, endanger or harm the paramount interests of the State and society, or the rights of individuals with respect to which reasonable restrictions may be imp;osed by law on the right to freedom of speech and expression under Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
43) Publication of wrong/incorrect map is a very serious offence, whatever the reason, as it adversely affects the territorial integrity of the country and warrants p;romped and prominent retraction with regrets.
Newspapers may expose misuse of diplomatic immunity
44) The media shall make every possible effort to build bridges of co-operation and better understanding between India and foreign States. At the same time, it is the duty of a newspaper to expose any misuse or undue advantage of the diplomatic immunities.
Investigative Journalism, its norms and parameters
45) Investigative reporting has three basic elements
a. It has to be the work of the reporter, not of others he is reporting;
b. The subject should be of public importance for the reader to know;
c. An attempt is being made to hide the truth from the people.
The first norm follows as a necessary corollary from:
a. that the investigative reporter should, as a rule, base his story on facts investigated, detected and verified by himself and not on hearsay or on derivative evidence collected by a third party, not checked up from direct, authentic sources by the reporter himself.
b. There being a conflict between the factors which require openness and those which necessitate secrecy, the investigative journalist should strike and maintain in his report a proper balance between openness on the one hand and secrecy on the other, placing the public good above everything.
c. The investigative journalist should resist the temptation of quickness or quick gains conjured up from half-baked incomplete, doubtful facts, not fully checked up; and verified from authentic sources by the reporter himself.
d. Imaginary facts, or ferreting out or conjecturing the non-existent should be scrupulously avoided. Facts, facts and yet more facts are vital and they should be checked and cross-checked whenever possible until the moment the paper goes to press.
e. The newspaper must adopt strict standards of fairness and accuracy of facts. Findings should be presented in an objective manner, without exaggerating or distorting, that would stand up in a court of law, if necessary.
f. The reporter must not approach the matter or the issue under investigation, in a manner as though he were the prosecutor or counsel for the prosecution. The reporter’s approach should be fair, accurate and balanced. All facts properly checked up, both for and against the core issues, should be distinctly and separately stated, free from any one-sided inferences or unfair comments. The tone and tenor of the report and its language should be sober, decent and dignified, and not needlessly offensive, barbed, derisive or castigator, particularly while commenting on the version of the person whose alleged activity or misconduct is being investigated. Nor should the investigative reporter conduct the proceedings and pronounce his verdict of guilt or innocence against the person whose alleged criminal acts and conduct were investigated, in a manner as if he were a court trying the accused.
g. In all proceedings, including the investigation, presentation and publication of the report, the investigative journalist’s newspaper should be guided by the paramount principle of criminal jurisprudence, that a person is innocent unless the offence alleged against him is proved beyond doubt by independent, reliable evidence.
h. The private life, even of a public figure, is his own. Exposition or invasion of his personal privacy or private life is not permissible unless there is clear evidence that the wrongdoings in question have a reasonable nexus with the misuse of his public position or power and has an adverse impact on public interest.
i. Though the legal provisions of Criminal Procedure do not in terms apply to investigating proceedings by a journalist, the fundamental principles underlying them can be adopted as a guide on grounds of equity, ethics and good conscience.
Confidence to be respected
46) If information is received from a confidential source, the confidence should be respected. The journalist cannot be compelled by the Press Council to disclose such sources; but it shall not be regarded as a breach of journalistic ethics if the source is voluntarily disclosed in proceedings before the Council by the journalist who considers it necessary to repel effectively a charge against him/her. This rule requiring a newspaper not to publish matters disclosed to it in confidence is not applicable where:
a. consent of the source is subsequently obtained; or
b. the editor clarified by way of an appropriate footnote that since the publication of certain matters were in the public interest, the information in question was published although it had been made ‘off the record’.
Caution in criticising judicial acts.
47) Excepting where the court sits ‘in camera’ or directs otherwise, it is open to a newspaper to report pending judicial proceedings in a fair, accurate and reasonable manner. But it shall not publish anything:
* which, in its direct and immediate effect, creates a substantial risk of obstructing, impeding or prejudicing seriously the due administration of justice; or
* is in the nature of a running commentary or debate, or records the paper’s own findings, conjectures, reflections or comments on issues sub judice and which may amount to arrogation to the newspaper of the functions of the court; or
* regarding the personal character of the accused standing trial on a charge of committing a crime.
Newspapers shall not, as a matter of caution, publish or comment on evidence collected as a result of investigative journalism, when, after the accused is arrested and charged, the court becomes seized of the case. Nor should they reveal, comment upon or evaluate a confession allegedly made by the accused.
48. While newspapers may, in the public interest, make reasonable criticism of a judicial act or the judgement of a court for the public good, they shall not cast scurrilous aspersions on, or impute improper motives, or personal bias to the judge. Nor shall they scandalise the court or the judiciary as a whole, or make personal allegations of lack of ability or integrity against a judge.
49. Newspapers shall, as a matter of caution, avoid unfair and unwarranted criticism which, by innuendo, attributes to a judge extraneous consideration for performing an act in due course of his/her judicial functions, even if such criticism noes not strictly amount to criminal Contempt of Court.
Newspapers to avoid crass commercialism
50. While newspapers are entitled to ensure, improve or strengthen their financial viability by all legitimate means, the Press shall not engage in crass commercialism or unseemly cut-throat commercial competition with their rivals in a manner repugnant to high professional standards and good taste.
51. Predatory price wars/trade competition among newspapers, laced with tones disparaging the produces of each other, initiated and carried on in print, assume the colour of unfair ‘trade’ practice, repugnant to journalistic ethics. The question as to when it assumes such an unethical character is one of fact depending on the circumstances of each case.
52. Using or passing off the writings or ideas of another as one’s own, without crediting the source, is an offence against the ethics of journalism.
Unauthorised lifting of news
53. The practice of lifting news from other newspapers, publishing them subsequently as their own, ill-comports the high standards of journalism. To remove its unethicality the ‘lifting’ newspaper must duly acknowledge the source of the report. The position of feature articles is different from ‘news’. Feature articles shall not be lifted without permission and proper acknowledgement.
54. The press shall not reproduce in any form offending portions or excerpts from a proscribed book.
Non-return of unsolicited material
55. A paper is not bound to return unsolicited material sent for consideration of publication. However, when the same is accompanied by a stamped envelope, the paper should make all efforts to return it.
56. Commercial advertisements are information as much as social, economic or political information. What is more, advertisements shape attitudes and ways of life at least as much as other kinds of information and comment. Journalistic propriety demands that advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from editorial matters carried in the newspaper.
57. Newspapers shall not publish anything which has a tendency to malign wholesale or hurt the religious sentiments of any community or section of society.
58 Advertisements which offend the provisions of the Drugs and Magical Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954, should be rejected.
59. Newspapers should not publish an advertisement containing anything which is unlawful or illegal, or is contrary to good taste or to journalistic ethics or proprieties.
60. Newspapers while publishing advertisements shall specify the amount received by them. The rationale behind this is that advertisements should be charged at rates usually chargeable by a newspaper since payment of more than the normal rates would amount to a subsidy to the paper.
61.Publication of dummy advertisements that have neither been paid for nor authorised by the advertisers constitutes a breach of journalistic ethics.
62. Deliberate failure to publish an advertisement in all the copies of a newspaper offends against the standards of journalistic ethics and constitutes gross professional misconduct.
63. There should be no lack of vigilance or a communication gap between the advertisement department and the editorial department of a newspaper in the matter of considering the propriety or otherwise of an advertisement received for publication.
64. The editors should insist on their right to have the final say in the acceptance or rejection of advertisements, especially those which border on or cross the line between decency and obscenity.
65. An editor shall be responsible for all matters, including advertisements published in the newspaper. If responsibility is disclaimed, this shall be explicitly stated beforehand.
CODE OF ETHICS FOR THE PRESS IN REPORTING AND COMMENTING ON COMMUNAL INCIDENTS
All India Newspaper Editors’ Conference: Adopted in 1968
1. A free press can flourish only in a free society. Communalism is a threat to the fabric of our free society and to the nation’s solidarity.
2. The press has a vital role to play in the consummation of the fundamental objectives enshrined in our Constitution, namely, democracy, secularism, national unity, and integrity and the rule of law. It is the duty of the press to help promote unity and cohesion in the hearts and minds of the people, and refrain from publishing material tending to excite communal passions or inflame communal hatred.
3. To this end the press should adhere to the following guidelines in reporting on communal incidents in the country:
a) All editorial comments and other expressions of opinion, whether through articles, letters to the Editor, or in any other form should be restrained and free from scurrilous attacks against leaders or communities, and there should be no incitement to violence.
b) Generalised allegations casting doubts and aspersions on the Patriotism and loyalty of any community should be eschewed.
c) Likewise, generalised charges and allegations against any community of unfair discrimination, amounting to inciting communal hatred and distrust, must also be eschewed.
d) Whereas truth should not be suppressed, a deliberate slanting of news of communal incidents should be avoided.
e) News of incidents involving loss of life, lawlessness, arson, etc. should be described, reported, and headlined with restraint in strictly objective terms and should not be heavily displayed.
f) Items of news calculated to make for peace and harmony and help in the restoration and maintenance of law and order should be given prominence and precedence over other news.
g) The greatest caution should be exercised in the selection and publication of pictures, cartoons, poems, etc. so as to avoid arousing communal passions or hatred.
h) Names of communities should not be mentioned nor the terms “majority” and “minority” communities be ordinarily used in the course of reports.
i) The source from which casualty figures are obtained should always be indicated.
j) No facts or figures should be published without fullest possible verification. However, if the publication of the facts or figures is likely to have the effect of arousing communal passions, those facts and figures may not be given.