The Kerala high court, while considering the bail application filed by the journalist Sreekantan Nair remarked that, journalism is not for propagating hearsay news.
The bench headed by Justice PV Kunhikrishnan, while hearing the bail application, has quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s lines, and said that “The true function of Journalism is to educate the public mind, not to stock it with wanted and unwanted impressions.” He further added that the emerging journalist community is forgetting these words and values and stated that “Journalism is not for propagating hearsay news. What to publish and what not to publish are to be decided sensibly. The duty of journalists is, to tell the truth. In other words, journalists should go back to the actual facts before publishing news and thereafter make sure that it is not to tarnish the image of any individual or a section of people. Journalists should not go behind gossips, hearsay news, etc. Once the news is published in print media or visual media, you cannot take it back. The people who watch the news may not see the apology or correction news which is published or telecasted later. Therefore, there is a great responsibility to every journalist. Press is the backbone of democracy. Every journalist should start their day remembering the fact that, they are the successors of the legends like Swedeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai and Kesari Balakrishna Pillai. The 2nd petitioner is one of the senior journalists in the State. He should show the path to his younger generation. I leave it there.”
Further, while observing that the Health Department is doing their best possible to control the spread of the deadly virus and to deal with the present scenario, each day, the court iterated that, “It is a fact that, the Covid-19 pandemic is facing the country and the officers of the Health Department are working day and night. The work of the Health Department is to be appreciated. There may be some mistakes committed by the officers of the Health Department while facing such a situation. The 2nd petitioner cannot pinpoint such single mistakes and conduct a program on the channel. This will give a wrong signal to society. Everybody is human beings. When a pandemic like Covid-19 is spreading, the Health Department is doing its level best. Pointing out a single incident and making a discussion about that on a channel cannot be appreciated. That will only affect the morale of the health workers. This is not journalism.”
Managing director and anchor of the renowned news agency, 24 NEWS Journalist Sreekantan Nair and Dr. Shinu Shyamalan was alleged of publishing rumors regarding the Coronavirus pandemic in a TV show, ‘Sreekantan Nair Show’. The doctor in the said program was accused of giving false information to create a state of panic among the general public and to make a feeling in the public about an alleged failure in public safety. Subsequently, a case was registered against them, accusing them of offenses punishable under section 505(1) (b) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 120 (O) of the Kerala Police Act.
While both the doctor and the journalist, approached the High Court, seeking anticipatory bail, Counsel representing the State, opposed the bail plea contesting that the act by the eminent figures like there was an attempt to mislead the people by telecasting or publishing program that supplies false and wrong information regarding Covid-19 pandemic.
The court acknowledged and appreciated the tireless efforts of the health workers and sanitary workers, and expressly turned down any plea with regards to the irresponsible and derogatory act done by the petitioners. Further, it strongly condemned and criticized such an attitude of journalists. Nonetheless, the Court granted bail to both, the Journalist and the doctor while imposing certain stringent conditions.
This news has been written and submitted by Ms. Mansi Batra during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Ms. Mansi is a third-year law student at the Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology, Kapashera, New Delhi.