The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has noted with concern the suggestion of the Delhi High Court that the I&B Ministry set up a committee to vet sting operations and issue no objection certificates on being satisfied that they served the public interest before the stories were telecast.
NBA President, G Krishnan, said, “We condemn motivated reporting and attempts to fabricate news to attempt to gain popularity at the cost of journalistic integrity. Such acts risk discrediting television news, and indeed the news media as a whole. But this does not mean that sting operations are wrong in principle. The NBA believes that sting operations are a legitimate journalistic tool and means of investigation, but like all powerful tools, they have to be used with care and responsibility.”
“We are all aware that events of the recent past have called sting operations to be questioned on grounds of authenticity, but stray incidents do not warrant such interference, which is totally against the tenets of democracy, free speech and freedom of the press,” Krishnan stressed.
The NBA said that the suggestion regarding seeking prior permission of the Government to telecast the news would constitute censorship of news and would, for that reason, constitute ‘content control’ and thereby, an unacceptable restraint on the right of free speech. As much as stray incidents of irresponsible reporting could not constitute a basis for imposing censorship on the print media, such incidents of abuse of ethics could not constitute a basis of imposing censorship on the electronic media, the broadcasters’ body maintained.
The NBA is in the process of formulating a code of self regulation for news and current affairs channels. Harish Salve, senior advocate and former Solicitor General of India, is helping the NBA in finalising the self regulation guidelines and grievance redressal mechanism.
“The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been encouraging of our endeavour towards self-regulation. We trust the Government will view the present suggestion in the same supportive spirit and resist attempts and suggestions to interfere with the press,” added Krishnan.