Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Concept of Free News

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Freedom of expression is the concept of being able to transfer ideas or thoughts verbally or otherwise freely without censorship. It was awarded global recognition as a universal human right and ingrained in the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of its status, it is never absolute in any country.

The power that the media wields in a free democratic society is apparent from the status it has earned as the Fourth Estate of the society. Although it is the youngest of the four estates, it is the most powerful of all of them and has been constantly growing in power on account of its increasing command over information, its expanding and deepening reach, and it’s ever strengthening capacity to influence and shape the views and opinions of the people and the policy-makers. The advent of the electronic media and particularly the satellite television and the internet, the growing literacy, the global expansion of the print media propelled by the computer technology, the fast life and increasing dependence of the common man, intelligentsia and leaders of public opinion on the media for knowledge, views and opinions, have among other things, contributed to the intensity of the grip of the media on society.

Free media is one of the basic requirements of a free democratic society. By disseminating all requisite information, it creates an informed society. The law reflects the political system of a country. Different press laws have, therefore, developed along the lines of political philosophies of different countries. The authoritarian press laws, in the early stages of the press following the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, giving control to the rulers over the press, later gave way to the libertarian laws on the advent of the age of enlightenment.

The expansion of the press and the growth in its power in the beginning of this century spawned yet another theory of the press laws – that of social responsibility. Freedom of expression, therefore, is among the foremost of human rights. Such unlimited and unaccountable powers are liable to be misused. Hence there is need for its regulation whether by an imposed law or by voluntarily put enforceable guidelines.

India experienced its first statutory regulation of the press in colonial rule. Adam’s Press Ordinance was the first ordinance brought in by the then Governor General, John Adam. The regulations promulgated by Adam were directed against newspapers published in the Indian languages and edited by the Indians. It is now known that the Adam regulations were the forerunner of the Vernacular Press Act of 1878 and other statutory measures to control the Indian press whose power posed a major factor in the country’s struggle for freedom from colonial yoke. After India gained independence in 1947, the framers of the constitution have placed “very narrow and stringent limits to permissible legislative abridgement of the right to free speech and expression” even though such freedom had potential risk of abuse. As pointed out by the Indian Supreme Court the ‘framers of the constitution may well have reflected, with Madison who was the leading spirit in the preparation of the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution’ that “it is better to leave a few of the noxious branches to their luxuriant growth than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigor of those yielding the proper fruits”. Thus, amongst the Fundamental Rights of the citizen defined therein, Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution provides for all citizens to have the right, inter alia, to freedom of speech and expression. The Constitution which guarantees this freedom as a fundamental right by Article 19 (1) (a), also permits the state under Article 19 (2), to impose reasonable restrictions on its exercise by making a law in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

In a number of cases the Supreme Court has held over and over again that any restriction, whether direct or indirect, imposed by Parliament upon the right of freedom of speech and expression other than those mentioned in clause (2) of Article 19 would be outside the scope of this Article. Pre-censorship, prohibition on import of printed and published material, placing a ban on printing and publishing material of a specified nature, demanding security from the press or placing any restriction which would amount to an indirect curb on free circulation of a newspaper or a class of newspapers have all been held to be bad in law.

Free media is as essential to a country as water is to fish. A nation can’t prosper and progress without a vibrant, pro-people and independent media. However, freedom also demands responsibility. A responsible reporting doesn’t necessarily mean restricted reporting. It only excludes sensationalism, undue hype and speculation.

Unfortunately, the race for first in news breaking has urged many media outlets, especially in India, to report irresponsibly. Objectivity demands an equal coverage of both the parties. But the TV news channels in India are under the wrong impression that only the anti-government reporting can win them audiences. It is the concern of winning audiences that is considered supreme instead of giving the audiences larger picture of the events. It is sad to see that so-called analysts and pseudo-intellectuals are commanding the air waves these days that deem it their divine duty to comment on everything. The subjective opinions have also marred the news that should base on hard facts. The tilted reporting skewed in favour of some persons or parties brings a bad name to the respectable field of journalism.

This could only be solved through self media regulation and following code of conduct and journalism ethics. Otherwise, the standard of journalism will fall further and people would stop believing the so-called ‘Free News’.




Posted: December 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

Let’s start with some history on the Bofors scandal, which remains till date one of the biggest scandals in Indian politics.

It all started when India decided to purchase 400; 155mm Howitzers (fancy word for really-big-kickass-gun) from Swedish company Bofors AB for $1.4 billion in 1986.

In 1987 the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks for this deal. The case came to light during Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s tenure as defense minister, and was revealed through investigative journalism by Chitra Subramaniam and N. Ram of the newspapers the Indian Express and The Hindu.

Ottavio Quattrochi was a businessman close to the Gandhi family and a prominent man in the hallowed passages of Indian government. His name came up as the middleman in this deal.

The Bofors scandal was huge. Rajiv Gandhi lost the 1989 elections due to the backlash of these allegations.

Other accused included the Hinduja brothers and Win Chaddha, an agent of the Bofors Company.

Chaddha died in 2001. Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, and was cleared of the corruption charges against him in 2004. In 2005, the charges against the Hinduja brothers were dismissed by the Delhi High court.

The Wikipedia page on Quattrochi throws up some interesting information about the amount of clout he used to enjoy.

From roughly 1980 to 1987 – Indira Gandhi’s final years and Rajiv Gandhi’s honeymoon years – Quattrocchi had the Midas touch. No deal was refused to him. “It was understood,” remembers a Congressman from the original Mrs G’s days, “that a fertilizer contract meant Snamprogetti. That was considered the favour to Sonia and Rajiv.”

It is alleged Quattrocchi was so influential with the office of the prime minister — Rajiv Gandhi — that bureaucrats used to stand up when Quattrocchi visited them.

In 2002 a Malaysian court refused extraditing Quattrochi to India, observing that the offenses alleged against him were open to doubt.

Dismissing India’s review petition for his extradition, Justice Augustine Paul of Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld the Sessions Court verdict earlier this month throwing out the extradition case on the ground that the descriptions of the offenses in the requisition papers were “insufficient, vague and ambiguous.” While discharging Quattrocchi unconditionally, the Sessions Court on December 2 had also ordered return of his passport and the bail.

The CBI chief PC Sharma attributed the failure to the fact that they were in a foreign country and had to present the case through a foreign lawyer. Maybe they should start training multi-lingual Indian lawyers? Malaysian ones are apparently no good.

In December 2005 the Indian government de-froze Quattrochi’s bank accounts on grounds of insufficient evidence to link those accounts to the Bofors payoff. A month later the Supreme Court directed the government to ensure that money was not withdrawn from those accounts. It was too late by then. Rs 21 crore ($4.6 mn) had already been withdrawn from the accounts.

Quattrochi was arrested in Argentina in February 2007. However, as there was no extradition treaty between India and Argentina, this case was presented in the Argentine Supreme Court. The government of India lost the extradition case as the government of India did not provide a key court order which was the basis of Quattrochi’s arrest. In the aftermath, the government did not appeal this decision owing delays in securing an official English translation of the court’s decision.

The Italian businessman no longer figures in the CBI’s list of wanted persons and the 12-year Interpol red corner notice against the lone surviving suspect in the Bofors payoff case has been withdrawn from the agency’s website after the CBI’s appeal.

The CBI had the option of appealing to a higher court, but it failed to get a clearance from the center. I wonder why that would be.

The judge noted that the CBI did not even present proper legal documents for Quattrochi’s extradition, which led to their request getting rejected. Besides, the Indian government’s decision to de-freeze Quattrochi’s bank accounts did not really add credence to their request.

Over more than two decades the case has dragged on like an Energizer bunny, with no end in sight. For some involved parties the case ended with death, some were cleared of charges, but the scandal lives on.

Strangely enough, you can’t attribute it all to the Congress. The Congress may have had an interest in this case, but we have had some non-Congress governments too during these past twenty years that have allowed this drama to carry on, culminating with Manmohan Singh’s government’s farewell gift to Mr Quattrochi.






Posted: December 16, 2010 in Uncategorized