Protection of Journalists from Online Harassment

By | July 21, 2021
Protection of Journalists from Online Harassment

This article on ‘Protection of Journalists from Online Harassment’ by Rajeshwari Rajesh, starts with the incidences of violence against Journalists, discusses the existing laws and some landmark judgments of the Supreme Court of India along with this, she echos the need for a robust legal framework for their protection.

Journalists are not safe in their own country and there is an urgent need for effective legislation to protect Indian journalists. Journalism plays a very important role in our society, otherwise, the world would have been ignorant.

It has become difficult to find the right balance between the right to express freely and the right to protect journalists from abuse and threats. Nowadays journalists are victims of various harassments, including murder threats, language abuse and slander campaigns.

Introduction

In 2015 Rega Jha, the Indian editor of BuzzFeed was threatened with rape after complimenting Pakistani players on Twitter after a cricket match between Pakistan and India.

Barkha Dutt is an Indian television reporter, writer, and owner of a Youtube channel named Mojo. She has been part of the NDTV team for about 21 years. In 2015, she became a victim of online bullying after she said she was sexually abused as a child in a book called “This Unquiet Land.”

How can we ever forget about Gauri Lankesh, a journalist who was known for speaking out boldly against the establishment? She was assassinated in her house in Bengaluru after receiving online death threats.

Such instances have become common in the lives of journalists. Although female journalists receive the greatest number of threats and bullying, male journalists also fall on the list.

In layman’s language, Journalism is producing and distributing reports on the current happenings based on facts and is supported by evidence and proof. A journalist’s work is known as Journalism[1].

The media go about as the vehicle for the “voice of a voiceless”– stating the viewpoint of every one of those in our society. It gives vital data that individuals need to settle on significant choices.

It is the piece of correspondence that keeps us educated regarding the evolving occasions, issues, and characters on the planet and brings transparency.

Assaults on journalists are rising in nations throughout the planet, different global, public and territorial foundations just as common social order and this has been causing worries about the effect of provocation of journalists on the opportunity of expression and free stream of data.

Journalists are progressively turning into the survivors of provocation, counting passing dangers, obnoxious attacks, and so forth.

The United Nations

In 2017, the United Nations of General Assembly gave out its goal in regards to the security of the journalists and the issue of exemption tending to brutality, terrorizing, and badgering of writers particularly for female journalists both on the web and field.

Under this United Nations, the General Assembly along with UNESCO had additionally given requests to the countries to make laws and practice a protected and empowering climate for journalists so they can play out their work freely and without unjustifiable obstruction[2].

Worried about the circumstance, the International Federation of Journalists in 2017 started the Byteback Campaign to stop digital tormenting and online badgering of women journalists[3].

Need for strict laws

Numerous overviews have traced down that none of the nations have adopted any provision for the safety of journalists who become casualties of online badgering.

Nonetheless, some of the individual nations have put forth explicit enactment especially focusing on online provocation and by and large forbidding harassment using any means including on the web.

For instance, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act which was established in 2015 in Canada, disallows the cyberbullying and non-consensual circulation of intimate pictures and so forth[4].

Laws Protecting Journalist

In India, there are no specific laws that focus on online harassment; therefore, the law officials and police rely on the Constitution of India, Indian Penal Code (IPC), etc.[5]

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India provides that every citizen has the right to express their views in public which is granted under Article 19(1)(a) and is known as Freedom of Speech and Expression[6]. This article gives us the freedom to use any source of medium be it written or oral or visuals to express our views, thoughts and ideas.
  • Article 19(1) (g) of the constitution of India allows every person to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business of their choice.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India prohibits the deprivation of personal liberty of any person, its state that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty and except in accordance to procedure established by law. It applies to any person whether citizen or alien, it is also available to a foreigner.

Other Provisions

  • Section 354 D of IPC deals with stalking which states that if any man follows women or contacts or attempts to contact such women repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by that woman or monitors the use of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication by that woman shall be punished on a first conviction for a term which may extend to three years and shall be liable to fine. On subsequent conviction, the wrongdoer shall be punished for the term which may extend to five years along with fine[7].
  • Section 503 of IPC talks about Criminal intimidation, which includes any individual threatening with an intention to cause an injury either to the person, property or reputation which he or she is not legally allowed to do[8]. Section 506 provides for the punishment for criminal intimidation.
  • Section 507 of IPC talk about criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication or person and it states that whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication, or take precaution to conceal the name or abode of the person from whom the treat comes shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, in addition to the punishment provided for the offence by section 506 IPC[9].
  • Section 509 of IPC states if any individual in public commits any act such as utterance of any word or any sound or gesture, with the intention to affect the reputation and modesty of women shall be punished for a term which may be extended to one year, or with fine, or both[10].
  • Press Council Act, 1978 was established to ensure the safety and standard of the press. Section 13 of the act provides the object and the function of the press council[11]. Some of the functions of the press council are-
    • to help news agencies and newspapers to maintain their autonomy
    • to formulate a code of conduct for journalists, news agencies and newspapers
    • to keep review of any development likely to restrict supply and circulation of news of importance to the public interest
    • to concern itself with the developments such as concentration of or various other aspects of ownership of newspapers and news agencies which may affect the independence of the press.
  • Protection of Media Professional Bill, 2017 i.e. Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Bill, 2017 was the first law in the country which ensures protection for journalists, it was first introduced by Devendra Fadnavis government. The bill recommended a punishment of up to three years or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both in case of an attack on media persons on duty[12].

Case Laws

In Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union of India[13] the Supreme Court held that though Article 19(1)(a) does not expressively mention freedom of press, it is implied that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of press and circulation.

In Romesh Thaper v. State of Madras[14] it was stated that freedom of expression included the concept of freedom of circulation of ideas which is covered under the right to the propagation of ideas.

In R.Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu[15], the Supreme Court held that the government does not have the power to impose any law which restrains publication of defamatory material against its officials.

Conclusion

Although Article 19 doesn’t expressly include freedom of the press, it has been upheld that it’s an indispensable part of the article.

These days Journalists regularly face online provocations such as digital harassment, trolling, criticism, life dangers, and public disgracing. Journalists are undependable even in their nation and there is an earnest requirement for successful laws for the security of journalists in India.

Journalists work for the general public and their occupation should be secured at any cost since we can’t envision a country like India without news reporting.


References

[1] Aditi Yadav, Jyotiraditya Singh Kushwah, Laws Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment, Available Here

[2] UNESCO, Partners in the field of the Safety of Journalists: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Available Here

[3] International Federation of Journalists, Byte back – against online abuse! Available Here

[4] Justice Law Website, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, Available Here

[5] Supra Note 1

[6] Article 19(1)(a), The Constitution of India

[7] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India)

[8] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India)

[9] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India)

[10] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India)

[11] Press Council Act, 1978, Acts of parliament, 1978 (India)

[12] Supra Note 1

[13] Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union of India, 1973 AIR 106, 1973 SCR (2) 757 (India)

[14] Romesh Thaper v. State of Madras, 1950 AIR 124, 1950 SCR 594 (India)

[15] R. Rajagopal v. State Of T.N., 1995 AIR 264, 1994 SCC (6) 632 (India)


  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination

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