By Sharvari Lohakare.
On Tuesday, the Press Council of India elucidated that it has no jurisdiction over social media i.e. Whatsapp /Twitter/Facebook, news channels or electronic media via a press release. Former Supreme Court judge Justice CK Prasad, the current Chairperson of the Press Council of India made the indispensable clarification through a press regulator.
This clarification was a reply to all the complaints received by the Press Council against fake and unverified news telecast on electronic media, news channels by their anchors and editors and their blogging handles in the difficult times of COVID-19. Recently there was a large public outbreak in Mumbai after a controversial news speculated by a news anchor. The spread of fake and speculative news is a major concern as the country is put in a lockdown extended till 3rd May.
It should also be noted that the Supreme Court earlier on Monday had denied to pass any interim order on the plea of a Muslim body seeking to restrain a section of media from allegedly spreading bigotry and communal hatred via news by linking the spread of coronavirus with the recent Nizamuddin Markaz incident. The Supreme Court stated it would ‘not gag the press’ and asked the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to implead the Press Council of India as a party to the case.
The Press Council of India is a statutory, quasi-judicial authority set up by the Act of the parliament. According to Section 14 of the Press Council of India Act, it can only exercise powers over a news paper or news agency. Section 14 of the Press Council Act, 1978, gives the power to the Council to warn, admonish or censure the newspaper or the news agency, the editor or the concerned journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it is found out that a newspaper or a news agency has offended against the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste or that an editor or a working journalist has committed any professional misconduct. The Press Council has the right to adjudicate all the complaints against and by the print media adhering to the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979.