Reporters must take precautions while reporting legal matters: HC

Shimla, Dec 17 (IANS) Journalists must take necessary precautions while reporting the court proceedings, a division bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court observed on Thursday.

The bench, comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sureshwar Thakur, dropped contempt proceedings against a reporter of an English daily for misquoting its order and said the reporting must be error free, actual and based on factual information, adding “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

“It should be objective and interpretive in order to reach the truth and significant facts and separate truth from falsehood. The journalist’s views should be without prejudice. There should be clarity of expression,” a 63-page judgment signed on Wednesday said.

The bench categorically made it clear that the court proceedings must be reported by the correspondents with legal background to avoid misquoting of court proceedings.

The bench took suo motu cognizance of a news report which misquoted that the judges were entitled to use the sealed roads of the state capital.

The judges described media as the fourth estate of the democracy.

There should be clarity of expression, the judgement said, adding, a journalist should undertake research.

“He (the journalist), as a sociologist, has to feel the pulse of society to usher new era. He has to garner the public opinion against the evils in society and how to eradicate them.”

Reflecting the humane side of law, the court recommended the state government to prepare a welfare scheme to improve the service conditions of the journalists.

It asked the state to create a corpus to pay pension to those journalists who have spent 20 to 25 years in the field of active journalism.

“These suggestions or recommendations are necessary to provide security and fearlessness in their professional pursuits.”

Quoting journalist welfare schemes initiated by the Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh governments, the judges said in this state a retired journalist only get a meagre pension between Rs.4,000 and 5,000.

“We recommend to the state to frame working journalists fund rules within three months,” said the judges.

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