Newsmen and defamation | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, December 09, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, December 09, 2009

Editorial

Newsmen and defamation

No warrant will be a confidence booster for them

WE welcome the cabinet's approval of a draft bill to drop the provision that gives the courts the power under sections 500 and 501 of the CrPC to issue warrant of arrest against editors, publishers, writers and reporters in defamation cases. This goes to meet a long standing demand of the journalist community.
We believe the cabinet has placed the defamation issue in the right perspective. Editors, publishers and journalists are often harassed through such cases by the complainants whenever they fail to accept a report in the right spirit. This usually happens where quarters having both political and financial clout feel aggrieved by some exposure they cannot come to terms with. It is not known how many editors, publishers and journalists have faced this situation over the years while reporting on corruption and abuse of power or gross violation of social norms. Sure enough, the number is pretty high.
Yet, the same journalists are expected to keep the nation abreast of all important developments. Obviously, journalists, facing all sorts of occupational hazards, come under added pressure when warrants are issued for covering events and episodes which they deem in the light of their professional responsibility to be deserving publication. Of course, we are talking about responsible journalism here.
But where infringements occur the journalists should be liable for explanation. The dropping of the clauses for arrest must not be seen as giving journalists an undue favour, for the court will retain the power to summon them when it deems necessary to get a clarification from the accused.
The cabinet decision will give the journalist a stronger position in law. Without question, they cannot unearth gross violation of the law or any other irregularities and anomalies if they have the constant fear of arrest.
The press in general will be better placed to bring to public glare matters that have a direct bearing on the rule of law and fair play, and only those on the wrong side of the law will feel the pinch.
It's time the government consider the oft-ventilated demand of the journalists that where a party feels genuinely aggrieved the matter may be resolved through the Press Institute.

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