Free press an inseparable part of democracy: NSLSA

Free press an inseparable part of democracy: NSLSA
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‘Media should not lose sight of its duties & obligations’

Kohima, May 11: The Nagaland State Legal Services Authority (NSLSA) today conducted a one day consultative meet for media persons in Nagaland “Law of defamation/judicial proceeding/ rights and liabilities of a journalist” at Hotel Japfu here.
Delivering the keynote address, NSLSA member secretary Mezivolu T. Therieh said democracy cannot be successful without free press.
“A free press is an inseparable part of democracy as well as it is the voice of the people,” she said, adding that freedom of speech and expression is one such right which the citizens are entitled to.
In Nagaland, she said, media has helped in converging the entire state with easy accessible information, in exposing certain ill and corrupt practices in the government sector, feeds the general mass and the public on information that the public can often be unaware of, mobilizing social activism and journalist activism, helps passing information on gender equality, trying to bridge the gaps in a lot of issues.
Though India is the largest democratic country and media having being considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, till date there is no law being enacted or passed for the protection of media house, journalist, reporters etc., she pointed.
She also expressed that active journalism suffers backlash of contempt proceedings, sedition charges being slapped on journalist, threat to life and some even deaths.
She informed that Maharashtra has gone ahead in becoming the only state in the country enacting a law to protect the journalist, making attacks on journalists and media houses in the state a non-bailable offense.
Any incident of violence against media persons or damage or loss of property of media persons or media institutions is now punishable in the state, she said.
With an objective that strengthening the media is strengthening our mission and vice versa, this initiative of having a consultative meet with the media is brought home, she said.
Media has become so powerful and strong but it should not lose sight of its duties and obligations, she said while adding that the norms of journalistic ethics should not be lost sight of as it is expected that genuine news, fairness, balance and accuracy are to be furnished in public interest.
The public trust and confidence should not be defeated as media has assumed the foremost importance in society and governance. Media can either build or destroy an individual, institution or any idea, Mezivolu said.
President of Nagaland Press Association, H Chishi in his address said the press has a right and a duty to keep a vigil on the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
“The court and the media cannot afford to cling to the past. It is time for both to be honest and fearless,” he said, adding that the importance of the press in the checking of judicial conduct cannot be exaggerated.
Stating that like any other institution the media can be irresponsible, Chishi quoted Chief Justice Warner Burger of the U.S. Supreme Court words in 1974 – “A responsible press is an undoubtedly desirable goal but press responsibility is not mandated by the Constitution, and, like many other virtues, it cannot be legislated.”
He went to state that the obvious impracticality of persuading the media that they are free to comment on judges, judicial proceedings, judgments and sentences without fear of contempt but regrettably, the administration of justice in this country is too little criticized”.
The general view, he said, is that though an improvement has been noticed in recent years, the media should play a more active role in criticizing judiciary. “Neither the court nor the media can afford to cling to the past. The time is come for both to be honest and fearless,” Chishi added.
Further accepting that media sometimes oversteps its boundaries, the NPA president said it has been witnessed that the media pronounces its own verdict before the trial begins and ends up violating the principles of a fair trial. ‘Trial by media’ is a lately coined term and is used to signify a face of ‘media activism’, he said.
Nonetheless, he was of the view that journalists and reporters are compelled to meet deadlines, satisfy media managers by meeting growing targets and so on. “They have begun to publish and present what the ‘public is interested in’ rather that what is for ‘public interest,” Chishi added.
Principal District & Session Judge and Chairperson of Kohima DLSA, Khesheli Chishi speaking on the topic “Judicial Proceedings – Salient features” dwelled on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and how it is different from Code of Criminal Procedure and other Act.
POCSO defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. She stressed on the need to have an investigation cell in the police department, which would help prompt execution of the cases.
She informed that there has been increase in POCSO cases in the state. Also stating that the state government has also come out with the Victim Compensation Scheme, 2015, she, however, said that there were some manufactured cases, for which authenticity of the case has to be carefully taken into consideration.
Senior Advocate Gauhati High Court Taka Masa Ao spoke on the topic “Rights/privileges and liabilities of the media/journalist” while Advocate Akito Zhimomi dwelled on “Law of defamation/right to privacy”. (Page News Service)