Get over the media

AAP doesn’t have to stoop to using defamation law like a kill switch. Why doesn’t it just switch off instead?

By: Express News Service | Published:May 12, 2015 12:43 am
Arvind Kejriwal, AAP defamation law, Aam Aadmi Party, AAP government, Arvind Kejriwal media ban, indian express editorial AAP doesn’t have to stoop to using defamation law like a kill switch. Why doesn’t it just switch off instead?

When the people of Delhi gave the Aam Aadmi Party 67 seats, it was not out of altruism. The vote was an expression of public faith in the party’s commitment to deliver on its poll promises. Unfortunately, the AAP government has not kept its side of the bargain. It squandered the first months of its tenure in an internal struggle for supremacy. The surviving maximum leader became convinced of a conspiracy against him. On Sunday at a Google Hangout, he promised “good” journalists aid from his government for setting up newspapers and TV channels. And four days earlier, his government had issued a circular drawing the attention of officials to Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which cover defamation. It required them to inform the government of media comment that could be proceeded against under defamation law. This is a low attempt to institutionalise the misuse of defamation law to cow down criticism.

Kejriwal had earlier sought to have defamation taken off the criminal law statutes and reclassified as a civil offence that does not attract imprisonment. The Supreme Court has clubbed his petition with similar pleas moved by Rahul Gandhi and Subramanian Swamy, and will hear arguments for decriminalising defamation next month.

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For Kejriwal’s government to seek to use criminal defamation law like a blunt instrument to bludgeon the media looks especially ugly because the party — and the movement it grew out of — had flourished by using the tools of an open society. It should have known that when it faltered, society would turn those very tools against it. Especially since the party is bursting with former journalists, who should understand the function and methods of the media.

The AAP should get over its obsession with the media and focus on the mandate that brought it to office. Neither do the people want it to run or back newspapers, as it has offered to do, nor do they want it to conduct revenge tragedies, upending media trials by organising public trials of the media, as it had similarly threatened. The AAP sweep had signalled the perceived need for government that is open and responsive. To deliver, the party must get over the private anxieties and paranoias which it has displayed through its first months in office, and focus on public agendas.

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  1. M
    mohit kumar
    May 13, 2015 at 1:39 pm
    The ruling government in the national capital seems to have misplaced priorities on its menu card. Since its second inning started, although it has been working for governance and fulfilling its electoral promises, but the limelight has been cast mainly due to negative propaa of its own. I voted for them with a lot of faith and hope which is still there but no wonder their private anxieties and paranoias are taking a heavy toll over their public agendas. The public is not at all interested in such less-interesting issues, they want administration and governance to run at its optimal levels with good governance being shown in letter and spirit. It’s beyond my comprehension that why they are wasting their energy, enthusiasm and motivation for public service in mindless issues. It’s time to grow up for them. Experimental democracy has to be pla with caution. It may burn their hands.
    Reply
  2. P
    Prakash
    May 12, 2015 at 8:36 pm
    This act of Delhi Chief Minister to use Defamation against Media is welcome. It has made media a LOKPAL. If media has evidences it can invite a court case of defamation and in the Court publicly it can prove Governments's wrongs. Thus media actually becomes a JAN-LOKPAL. But if it is only a canard, media should accept consequences.
    Reply