Freedom of Speech UPSC NOTE

 Freedom of speech and Media Concerns

  • The image you sent shows a banner with the words "Freedom of speech and media concerns." This is a timely and important topic, as India's ranking in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index has fallen in recent years.

There are a number of reasons for this decline, 

  • Sedition laws: India's sedition laws are broad and vague, and have been used to target journalists, activists, and critics of the government.

  • Internet shutdowns: India has shut down the internet more than any other country in the world in recent years, 

often in response to protests or unrest. This can have a chilling effect on free speech and media freedom.

  • Violence against journalists: Journalists in India have faced increasing levels of violence and intimidation in recent years, both from government forces and from non-state actors.

  • Corporate control of media: A handful of large corporations control a significant portion of the Indian media landscape. This can lead to self-censorship and a lack of diversity of voices in the media.

  • These concerns are particularly troubling in the context of India's democracy

  • A free and independent media is essential for holding the government accountable and for informing the public about important issues.

  • The Indian government has taken some steps to address these concerns, such as repealing a colonial-era law that criminalized blasphemy. However, more needs to be done to protect freedom of speech and media freedom in India.

Specific examples of freedom of speech and media concerns in India:

  • In 2023, the Indian government ordered Twitter to block several accounts that were critical of the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • In 2022, journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested on sedition charges for reporting on the Hathras gang rape case. He spent over a year in prison before being released on bail.

  • In 2021, the Indian government banned several online news outlets that were critical of the government.

  • In 2020, the Indian government shut down the internet in Jammu and Kashmir in response to protests against the government's decision to revoke the region's special status.

Why SC directed to issue guidelines

  • The Supreme Court’s direction to the Union government to frame guidelines to protect the interests of media professionals with regard to the seizure of their digital devices is a timely first step.

  • The guidelines must ensure that law enforcement agencies are not permitted to seize or search devices without a prior judicial warrant, clearly laying out the information that the agency expects to find, rather than authorising an unlimited fishing expedition

Journalists must not be forced to incriminate themselves or their sources by being compelled to provide passcodes or biometric data.
  • The guidelines must include protocols to safeguard the devices and the data, to ensure that it is not leaked or tampered with, or passed on to third parties, and that data irrelevant to an investigation is deleted in a timely manner.

  • Technological interventions allow for the cloning of a device, thus allowing journalists to continue their work and not depriving them of their own data for an unspecified period. 

  • It is important to create a record of the device at the time of seizure to ensure that incriminating material is not planted on it during the investigation process.

Why Guidelines needed

  • The Court, in its directive to the Additional Solicitor-General, indicated the need for a “balancing of interests”. 

  • Thus, the guidelines must be drafted in a transparent manner and involve public consultations. 

  • The Court referred to the fact that “privacy itself has been held to be a fundamental right”, indicating that this is an issue involving all citizens whose professional and personal lives are increasingly contained in a vulnerable hand-held device. 

  • Beyond these guidelines for media professionals, there is a need to update the laws allowing search and seizure by law enforcement agencies to take these new digital realities into account.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Freedom of Speech UPSC NOTE
Freedom of Speech UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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