The Delhi High Court, dealing a plea between two media outlets, on Friday said every media house, TV channel, or social media platform have their own philosophy, which gets reflected in the manner of reportage and content of the programmes, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Dismissing the defamation and copyright infringement suit moved by TV Today Network against news portal Newslaundry, Justice Asha Menon said the right to free speech is an important right, but reputation is an equally important right.
“The right to free speech and expression has been enshrined in our Constitution as a Fundamental Right. The right to free expression has therefore been stoutly protected by the courts. No doubt, the right to free speech is not unbridled nor is it recognised as absolute. It is subject to reasonable restrictions, which includes the right to reputation, as has been recognised in several judgments,” she ruled.
“Quite clearly, the right to broadcast programmes would be included in the right to free speech and expression.
“… the right to free speech and expression carries with it the right to publish and circulate one’s ideas, opinions and views with complete freedom and by resorting to the available means of publication, which, in the opinion of this court, would also mean and include not only the electronic media and TV channels, but also the social media platforms as the object of publication and broadcast is the same i.e., to reach out to the public,” the order added.
The court also pointed that it cannot accept self-appointment by the defendants (news portal) as a “regulator” of the content of the media, for the reason that mechanisms exist for redressal of grievances relating to content of news channels and for social media content, set up statutorily, including by the platforms themselves.
“It is obvious that there can be no ‘free for all’ in the regulatory sphere. Every individual or organisation cannot claim authority to regulate – the chaos can be imagined – there will be only regulators and none willing to bide by regulations!! But, dehors this claim to the status of a regulator, albeit an informal one, what is seen is that basically, the defendants No.1 to 9 disapprove of the coverage of current news both, in the style, as well as its prioritisation, by the mainstream media and TV channels or even the social media platforms,” it observed.
“Every media house and channel on TV or the social media platforms, including that of the defendants No.1 to 9, have their own philosophy, which gets reflected in the manner of reportage and content of the programmes and that is not necessarily a bad thing, ” the court held.