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Notices to TV news channels attempt to ‘intimidate’ media, says Prashant Bhushan

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Saturday, 8 August,New Delhi: Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Saturday termed the Centre’s show-cause notices to leading news broadcasters over Yakub Memon’s execution as an attempt to “intimidate” and “terrorise” the media. Bhushan used the platform of a discussion on ‘Media Freedom’ at the Press Club of India in attacking the BJP-led Union government saying freedom was under “serious threat” under it.

“They (government) have been taking all the illegal measures to terrorise, harass and intimidate the media. I think the time has come for everybody, journalists, activists, academicians to realise that our freedom is under serious threat under this government,” Bhushan said.

Unhappy with the coverage related to hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Memon by three leading news broadcasters, Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued show-cause notice to them, asking why action should not be taken against them. Bhushan also said that time had come to declare laws governing criminal defamation, sedition and some provisions under the Contempt of Courts Act as “unconstitutional”.

“Provisions dealing with ‘scandalising the Court’ under Contempt of Courts Act is also a problematic area. Whoever expose corruption in Judiciary can be convicted under this law. This is a serious threat to the free press. There is absolutely no need for this provision to exist in our statute at all. Under the criminal defamation laws, truth by itself is not a defence. Though whatever you said is absolutely true and you have the evidence to prove it, you may still be convicted for criminal defamation. This, to my mind, is enough to make the law unconstitutional,” he added.

Other participants including Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy and Delhi-based lawyer Apar Gupta also demanded the repealing of the criminal defamation law saying it poses a threat to journalistic freedom.

“Theres is a serious threat to the freedom of both the media and individuals. Children and women are also being charged with sedition and defamation cases at many part of the country,” Nundy alleged.
However, they also stressed the need to curb “media trials, convictions infront of TV cameras and biased reportage in terrorism cases”.

PTI