Highlights

  • SC calls hate speeches a 'menace'
  • Apex court expresses concern over media
  • 'TV channels creating divide in society'

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'How many times action has been taken against the anchor?': SC asks on hate speeches

It said unlike for print media, there is no Press Council of India for news channels, and observed "We want free speech, but at what cost".

Hate speeches are a "complete menace", the Supreme Court observed on Friday and rued the lack of regulatory control on TV news content, saying it wants "free and balanced press in India".

The top court said nowadays everything is driven by TRP (television rating point) and channels are competing with each other and creating a division in society. It wondered why can't a TV news anchor, if they become a part of the problem of propagating hate speech, be taken off air.

It said unlike for print media, there is no Press Council of India for news channels, and observed "We want free speech, but at what cost".

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna, which was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a curb on hate speech incidents across the country and action against the culprits, said, "Hate speech has become a complete menace. It has to stop." Expressing concern over media trial, the bench pointed to the recent incident of a man allegedly urinating on an Air India flight, saying, "He was called names. Media people should understand he is still under trial and he should not be denigrated. Everyone has dignity." Justice Joseph said TV channels are competing with each other as news coverage is TRP-driven. "They sensationalise everything and create divisions in society because of the visual element. Unlike the newspaper, the visual medium can influence you much more and unfortunately, the audience is not mature enough to see these kind of content," he said.

He said many a time during live debates the anchors became part of the problem as they either mute the voice of the person sitting in a panel or don't allow them to present a counter view.

Justice Nagarathna said if TV channels are found to be violating the programme code by indulging in propagation of hate speech, action can be taken against their management.

"We want free and balanced press in India," she said.

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The counsel representing the News Broadcasters Association claimed that thousands of complaints have been received in the past year and action taken against the channels.

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