States warned against infringing on press freedom


Mumbai : The Press Council of India (PCI) has taken strong note of the recent attacks on the media, including the editorial offices of Maharashtra Times, and warned states against infringing on press freedom.

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PCI chairman Markandey Katju Friday said the chief ministers, chief secretaries and secretaries of the information departments of all the state governments have been told in clear terms that “violation of the constitutional right to freedom of the press” would not be tolerated anymore.

“I have already issued strong letters to the chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh in this connection. I have also sent a letter to the chief minister of West Bengal objecting to the new rules regarding accreditation of journalists some of which are likely to adversely affect the freedom of press,” Katju said in a statement.

Katju pointed out that under the Press Council Act, 1978, Sec. 13(1), “it is the duty of the Press Council to preserve the freedom of the Press”.

“I have been receiving reports from several quarters in several states that the freedom of the press is being imperiled in various ways,” Katju said.

This was by physical assaults on journalists or media establishments by various government agencies and other people or organisations; withholding government advertisements or other facilities when a newspaper is critical of the government; and various other ways, including threats, he added.

He said freedom of speech and expression is a guaranteed right under Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution.

“I intend to send fact finding teams to some of the states from where we are getting a large number of such complaints. I have sought the opinion of the members of the Press Council in this connection,” Katju said, but did not specify the states.

“A serious view and strong action will be taken by the Press Council whenever and wherever this right is infringed,” he warned.