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Blanket gag order will have chilling effect on press freedom: HC

Blanket gag order will have chilling effect on press freedom: HC
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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday noted that passing a blanket gag order on the media against reporting anything against Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty, wife of arrested businessman Raj Kundra, shall have a chilling effect on the freedom of press and said there is a judicial limit on what can be construed as good or bad journalism.

Justice Gautam Patel, however, directed that three videos uploaded on YouTube channels of three private persons be deleted and not uploaded again as they were malicious and with not even the slightest attempt to investigate the truth of the matter.

The court noted that the freedom of press has to be balanced with the right to privacy of an individual.

The court was hearing a suit filed by Shetty against alleged defamatory articles published against her and family after the arrest of her husband on July 19. Kundra (45) is currently in jail under judicial custody.

Shetty, in an interim application, had sought for media to be restrained from publishing any incorrect, false, malicious and defamatory content.

Justice Patel, however, noted that the plaintiff's prayer seeking media to be restrained will have a chilling effect on the freedom of press.

There is a judicial limit on what is good or bad journalism as this comes very close to freedom of press, the court said.

The court noted that the articles referred to by Shetty in her suit do not seem to be defamatory.

It cannot be like if you (media) are not going to write or say anything nice about me (Shetty) then do not say anything at all. How can this be? Justice Patel said.

The actor's application also sought damages of Rs 25 crore, stating that the respondents (several media publications

and social media sites like Google, Facebook and YouTube) are causing irreparable loss and damage to her reputation.

In her plea, Shetty sought directions against social media platforms like Google, YouTube and Facebook to remove all defamatory content related to her and family.

To this, Justice Patel said, Your prayer seeking for social media platforms like Google, YouTube and Facebook to exercise control over editorial content is dangerous. The HC directed all defendants in the suit to file their affidavits and posted the matter for further hearing on September 20.

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