Privacy and the Media: A Critical Analysis

Sahina Mumtaz Laskar


“There are laws to protect the freedom of press, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press”………………Mark Twain.

The media in India enjoys a great deal of freedom and when it is threatened, the response is vociferous. Nevertheless, there is the need to maintain a balance between free expression and other community and individual rights; hence this responsibility should not be borne by the judiciary alone, but by all those who enjoy these rights.

The strength and importance of media in a democracy is well recognized. It plays the role of a conscious keeper, a watchdog of the functionaries of society and attempts to attend to the wrongs in our system, by bringing them to the knowledge of all, hoping for correction. It is indisputable that in many dimensions the unprecedented media revolution has resulted in great gains for the general public. Even the judicial wing of the state has benefited from the ethical and fearless journalism and taken suo motu cognizance of the matters in various cases after relying on their reports and news highlighting grave violations of human rights. The criminal justice system in this country has many lacunae which are used by the rich and powerful to go scot-free. Figures speak for themselves in this case as does the conviction rate in our country which is abysmally low at 4 percent. In such circumstances the media plays a crucial role in not only mobilizing public opinion but bringing to light injustices which most likely would have gone unnoticed otherwise.

The Indian media enjoys two fold protections under the Constitution, in the form of Article 19(1) (a) [freedom of free speech and expression] and Article 19(1) (g) [freedom to engage in any profession, occupation, trade or business]. In today’s world, it is very difficult for any medium to strike a balance between responsibility to do good work and the urge to gain more profit and thus on this point the conflict of the media with the privacy of a person is coincided.

It is true that the freedom of media is the very test upon which a democratic nation belongs. Liberty is an essential ingredient of any society. Almost, the Preamble of every Constitution declares a common object, that is – to secure liberty of thought and expression but liberty when disturbs morality becomes a bane rather than a boon. Thus, the media should be aware of its huge responsibility upon the society and work accordingly.

Our Constitutional framers could foresee that if the freedom of press is not regulated without any restriction how it can create havoc in the society and thus they mandated the restrictions upon Article 19(2). But law cannot become enforceable if it is restricted only to books, statutes, Acts etc. Judicial interpretation is a core element for the law to be validated.