It is a long-established rule that the press should not interfere with the state’s business, but that has been severely challenged in the wake of the demonetisation.
A recent Delhi High Court ruling has led to a new, much less benign interpretation of the law.
The Supreme Court of India, in its recent judgement, said the Press Council of India should not “encourage” journalists to “obstruct the functioning of government institutions or public bodies”.
What this means is that, while the Press Trust of India is free to run the press in its own way, the government may, for instance, require that newspapers be run on the government’s terms, or even the media must be publicly funded.
This is a significant change in the law, but one that seems to be aimed more at protecting the press and ensuring that it is free from interference.
How to be press citizen article In a statement, the Indian government said it would “take appropriate legal and constitutional steps” to protect press freedom.
“We will also provide an advisory committee to ensure that journalists have the right to protect their freedom of expression and press,” the statement said.
“In a free and democratic society, every citizen should have the opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, irrespective of whether or not the expression is in the public interest.”
The government has also introduced a new law allowing a press association to be registered in the name of the newspaper and said it has asked media houses to “ensure compliance with the new rules”.
This is not the first time a court has ruled against the press.
In 2009, a three-judge Supreme Court bench had said the press had a “legitimate” role to play in the functioning and management of a public institution, and not to be “controlled or restrained”.
In a similar case in 2013, the Supreme Court also said the government should not intervene in media matters by interfering with the newsroom of the Press Club of India.