Media to be kept away from high court Sep 24

Lucknow : The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which is scheduled to announce its verdict in the long-pending Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute Friday, has issued guidelines for the media – keeping it away from the court on the judgement day and asking it to maintain restraint.

According to the guidelines issued Tuesday, it has disallowed entry of media into the court room, which was stated to be not big enough to accommodate a large number of people, but has taken certain measures to ensure that copies of the judgement are made available to the media within minutes of its pronouncement.

The direction came in a public interest lawsuit, moved by a local lawyer Prince Lenin, who sought a restraint order against reporting of the verdict by the media.

However, the bench comprising Chief Justice F.I. Rebello and Justice Pradeep Kant felt that it was not fair in a democracy to even think of barring the media from disseminating the news relating to the judgment.

But they emphasised on the need for media to observe utmost restraint in disseminating correct information, without allowing it to get coloured by personal prejudices and any other extraneous factors.

“Democracy survives if people are given a right to express their views. At the same time we are aware that news, if not properly disseminated, or improperly made, is likely to impair the unity and integrity of this nation,” the court observed.

Praising the resolution passed by the National Broadcasting Association – a representative body of all Indian TV channels – with respect to the coverage of the awaited verdict, the court urged the media to observe self-discipline by strictly adhering to the association’s guidelines.

The association said the Ayodhya issue is one such matter in which extra care is necessary to ensure that the telecast of any news relating to it should not be sensational, inflammatory or be provocative.

The resolution said that all news relating to the high court judgment in the case should be “verbatim reproduction of the relevant part of the said judgment uninfluenced by any opinion or interpretation”.

“No broadcast should be made of any speculation of the judgment before it is pronounced and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.”

“No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the judgment. No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgment. In view of the sensitivity of news reporting on this issue, extra care should be taken to ensure accuracy by vetting & clearance at the highest editorial level…,” it added.

The judges said: “This court will not take any steps to muzzle the freedom of the press or TV channels but is assured in view of their self-imposed restraint that they will abide by the resolution.”

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