Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Central Media Accreditation Guidelines 2022

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of Speech and Expression, Its many aspects

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Centre has issued a new policy on the accreditation of journalists, introducing an entire section about reasons that can result in the suspension of the accreditation.

What is the Policy for Accreditation?

  • The new policy lays down guidelines on how PIB accreditation will be granted to eligible journalists.
  • It is prepared by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and issued by the Press Information Bureau.
  • At the moment there are 2,457 PIB-accredited journalists in the country.

Conditions laid

  • For the first time, it specifies conditions that can result in the journalist losing accreditation.
  • The new policy has ten points that may result in the accreditation being canceled, including if a journalist is charged with a “serious cognizable offense”.
  • If a journalist acts in a manner that is prejudicial to the following conditions, his/ her accreditation can be canceled:
  1. Sovereignty and integrity of India
  2. Security of the nation
  3. Friendly relations with foreign states
  4. Public order
  5. Decency or morality or
  6. Defamation or incitement of an offense
  7. In relation to Contempt of Court
  • Accreditation is also liable to be withdrawn/suspended if it is found to have been misused.

Who is eligible for accreditation?

  • Applications for accreditation are vetted by a Central Press Accreditation Committee headed by the DG, PIB.
  • After a journalist applies, a mandatory security check is conducted by the Home Ministry, which includes police verification of the journalist’s residence.

(1) Journalists

  • But a journalist needs to have a minimum of five years of professional experience as a full-time working journalist or a cameraperson in a news organization, or a minimum of 15 years as a freelancer to become eligible.
  • Veteran journalists, with over 30 years of experience, and who are older than 65 years of age, too are eligible.
  • Accreditation is only available for journalists living in the Delhi NCR region.
  • Similar rules apply to foreign news organizations and foreign journalists.

(2) Newspapers

  • A newspaper or a periodical needs to have a minimum daily circulation of 10,000, and news agencies must have at least 100 subscribers.

(3) Digital platforms and others

  • The policy has introduced a provision that journalists working with digital news platforms are also eligible, provided the website has a minimum of 10 lakh unique visitors per month.

How does accreditation help?

  • Professional status: The policy mentions that the accreditation does not “confer any official or special status” on the journalists, but only recognizes them as “professional working journalists”.
  • Reporting important offices: In certain events where VVIPs or dignitaries such as the President, the Vice President, or the Prime Minister are present, only accredited journalists are allowed to report from the premises.
  • Source Identity: Accreditation ensures that a journalist is able to protect the identity of his or her sources.
  • Authencity: An accredited journalist does not have to disclose who he or she intends to meet when entering offices of union ministries, as the accreditation card is valid for entry.
  • Perks and benefits: Accreditation brings certain benefits for the journalist and his or her family, like being included in the Central Government Health Scheme, and some concessions on railway tickets.

What concerns does this raise?

  • Intimidation: This could result, at times, in such powers trying to intimidate journalists or to block information from coming out.
  • Alleged defamation: A common tool used by powerful people is filing of defamation cases against journalists and media platforms.
  • Prevents constructive criticism: Journalists often report on issues and policy decisions that the government may not like.
  • Subjectivity of criteria: The new policy’s provision about acting “in manner which is prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India can be subjective.
  • No watchdog: The policy is silent on who will decide if a journalist’s conduct violates any of these conditions.
  • Media trials: Any investigative story on sensitive issues could be held to be in violation of any of these provisions.

 

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