Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information and Broadcasting Shri Arun Jaitley has said that free speech is an aid to good governance in view of the changes taking place in the media landscape and the scope and content of issues related to Right to freedom of Speech and Expression. The overall scenario was also influenced by technological tools that brought about a change in the form, style and method of dissemination. These developments also impacted the definition of News, which today was increasingly being influenced by the camera and channel driven mode. Jaitley stated this while delivering Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture-2015 on the topic “Is it possible to impose reasonable restriction on Freedom of Speech & Expression given today’s media landscape” organized by Prasar Bharti in New Delhi yesterday.
Elaborating further, Jaitley lauded the judiciary for its role in expanding the scope of Right to freedom of Speech and Expression over the years.
Regarding the media landscape, Shri Jaitley said satellite televisions had brought about a sea change in the presentation of news, in the current scenario the recipient of information had the right to information and knowledge which was also being considered part of the debate under Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. While the dissemination process in the social media space also impacted the information flow and contributed to the public debate and setting of agendas in the policy framework. Social media had led to the empowerment of citizens by giving them a voice. Decision makers were increasingly using social media to gauge public sentiments on government policies making public reactions, among other things, the new agenda setters for governance.
During the course of his address, Minister referred to the evolution of media and the right to freedom of speech and expression. Citing global examples, Jaitley brought out the finer aspects of the freedom of speech vis-à-vis privacy; need to protect the source of information in public interest and media restraint with regard to matters that were sub-judice. He said that these issues had generated discussions amongst academicians, media fraternity and other concerned stakeholders. During his address Jaitley touched upon the global practices being followed in the context of social media restrictions. He further referred to the ‘right to be forgotten’ incorporated by the European Court of Human Rights, which empowered the state authority to remove the reference of the aggrieved person from internet citing citizen’s right to privacy. He also spoke about the jurisdictional principles with respect to reasonable restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Expression in the light of changes and issues raised.
Jaitley also mentioned that in the context of the various sensitivities prevalent in multicultural society like India, it was imperative to strike a fine balance between freedom of speech and expression and the reasonable restrictions so as to maintain public order and integrity and sovereignty of India.