World Press Freedom Day: An Indian Question

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Avijit Das

Freedom of the Press. A term with which many of us are quite acquainted with. Press which is considered as the fourth estate of democracy needs to function independently to provide smooth respiration for functioning of democracy. And Yes!! Without the freedom of the press, democratic pluralism has no value.

In December 1993, the United Nations declared May 3 as ‘Press Freedom Day’ to raise awareness of the importance of the freedom of the press and to remind the government of their awareness to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression under 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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penThe day marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a document on press freedom principles put together by the African journalists in 1991.

But some questions arose in Indian context.

Do we really have the freedom of the Press in India despite the UN declaration?

Article 19 (1) A of the Indian Constitution gives us the freedom of Speech and Expression. There are some allegations that though the Indian Constitution talks about the freedom of Press, there are no elaborate provisions. When the American Constitution came into effect it too didn’t have any provision for the freedom of Press, but the first amendment to the American Constitution within days of its implementation said that no law shall ever be made which may infringe upon the freedom of press in that country.

The Indian Constitution although guarantees the citizens freedom of Speech and Expression which is considered by many as the freedom of Press in the country. But one must remember that the Indian Constitution also incorporates Article 19(2), which states that Government may impose restriction on the Article 19 Clause 1 sub-clause (a) in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

So some people argue that there is no freedom of Press in India due to the induction of the Article 19 (2) of the Constitution.

During the Emergency, the freedom of Speech and Expression was abolished and the Newspapers were forbidden to write anything which went against the interest of the government.

According some philistines, the freedom of Press in the world’s greatest democracy is not totally fit for so-called Generation X, Y & Z. They always grumble that no Government yet has shown any interest to provide a breathing space for the real freedom of Press in the country. But what is their proposition? India is a cultural symbiotic melting pot by birth, not like an imposed one like U.S. But due to various complications, which arose mainly after the Partition and Freedom, founding fathers of the Indian Constitution have to put down some definite ‘Lakhsman Rekhas’ for the sake of the integrity and peace of Indian Populace. What do the so-called ‘Glasnost’-lovers really want? Tolerant pluralism or Bacchanalian chaos?

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