Top
Millennium Post

Don't muzzle the media

Attempts at muzzling the media in one form or another, today, is increasingly rearing its head. The irony of it all is that just the other day Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu had drawn pointed attention to the freedoms enjoyed by the media under the BJP led NDA regime compared to the stifling atmosphere prevailing in the country during the dark days of the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1975-77. Now all of a sudden the Karnataka assembly has taken upon itself, coming down hard against scribes who have allegedly committed a breach of privilege. It is happening in a state where the government is run by the Congress, headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. In dealing with a complaint made last year in 2016, the state

In dealing with a complaint made last year in 2016, the state Assembly took the unprecedented step of passing an order to imprison editors of two Kannada tabloids for one year along with imposing a fine of Rs 10,000 on both. This has evoked a sharp response from journalists, activists and former Speakers. Even as the two editors -- well known Ravi Belegare of Bangalore Hi and Anil Raju of Yelahanka Voice -- are seeking legal recourse, the former Chairman of the Legislative Council V R Sudarshan emphasised that the legislature's function is to "frame legislation and not single out journalists for punishment." Recalling that there have been incidents of admonition for breach of privilege, yet "pronouncing imprisonment was something unheard of in the history of the Karnataka legislature," Sudarshan added. At the same

Recalling that there have been incidents of admonition for breach of privilege, yet "pronouncing imprisonment was something unheard of in the history of the Karnataka legislature," Sudarshan added. At the same time, journalists have the option of filing an appeal before the Speaker KB Koliwad. Acting on a July 2016 recommendation of the Privileges Committee of the Karnataka Assembly, the Speaker had ordered the arrest of Belagere and Raju. On his

On his part Belagere is approaching the High Court seeking anticipatory bail and appealing for dismissal of the order. In his facebook post, the message is unmistakable: "Write against a politician and go to jail". Legislative experts rejected outright the idea of invoking power to punish for a breach of privilege. The state Assembly's resolution imposing a year's imprisonment and a fine on each of the Editors is indefensible. The Constitution confers certain privileges on legislative institutions with the idea of protecting freedom of speech and expression in the House ensuring that undue influence, pressure or coercion is not brought on the legislature in the course of its functioning. Much too often breach of privilege is a thinly disguised mechanism to insulate elected representatives from criticism. Without a law codifying the legislative privileges, there is hardly any merit in subjecting anyone, leave alone a journalist, to penal action for allegedly breaching a legislator's privilege unless there is a move or attempt to obstruct the functioning of either House or its members. Meanwhile, JD (S) state president HD Kumaraswamy maintained that sending the two journalists to jail is an "unhealthy development" and appealed to the Speaker to reconsider the matter. With assembly elections due in Karnataka next year where the BJP is desperate to make a comeback, the legislature's attempt to come down hard against scribes being a direct assault on their fundamental rights of freedom and speech has the portends of

Without a law codifying the legislative privileges, there is hardly any merit in subjecting anyone, leave alone a journalist, to penal action for allegedly breaching a legislator's privilege unless there is a move or attempt to obstruct the functioning of either House or its members. Meanwhile, JD (S) state president HD Kumaraswamy maintained that sending the two journalists to jail is an "unhealthy development" and appealed to the Speaker to reconsider the matter. With assembly elections due in Karnataka next year where the BJP is desperate to make a comeback, the legislature's attempt to come down hard against scribes being a direct assault on their fundamental rights of freedom and speech has the portends of harming the Congress party.

Next Story
Share it