Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said if Emergency were to be declared in the country today, it will fail because technology would not allow the press to be censored.
“…if Emergency were ever to be re-imposed, it would collapse for the simple reason that one of the strengths of the Emergency was press censorship and technology doesn’t permit press censorship. You’ll certainly get access to information through various instruments that technology has provided,” said Jaitley.
He was delivering the inaugural address on National Press Day on “Journalism ethics and challenges in digital age”. Earlier, he gave away National Awards for Excellence in Journalism presented by Press Council of India (PCI).
Jaitley said “one of the greatest challenges… to media in a free society is how does it retain its own credibility so that it continues to become a maker of public opinion”. For media, he said, “its credibility will be its own maker” and if it is lost or allowed to be “misused grossly”, then “it can also become its own breaker”.
If emergency was ever to be reimposed, it would collapse for the simple reason, that one of the strength of the emergency was Press Censorship and technology doesn’t permit a press censorship today: Union Minister @arunjaitley pic.twitter.com/VrwiKpqugV
— PIB India (@PIB_India) November 16, 2018
The worst, he added, that can happen to free speech is “if a doubt in a mind of a reader or a viewer is created with regards to the integrity of the news or the opinion”.
He has “never have been able to understand the criticism of those who criticise the maximum and one of the points of several criticisms is that we are in danger,” Jaitley said, and quipped that their speech “can’t be in danger” because if they are able to criticise the government “seven days a week, free speech is certainly live and kicking”.
Referring to the scrapping of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act by the Supreme Court in March 2015, Jaitley said he was in a “hopeless minority of one” in disagreeing with the judgment.
For actions like spreading hate speech or maligning someone’s reputation online, the minister said there were sanctions under Section 66A which could have been invoked. He said the Supreme Court had the “option to sever” the section and “quash the unconstitutional and protect the constitutional”, but since it scrapped the section, “we either enjoy or suffer everyday”.
PCI Chairman C K Prasad was present during the lecture. N Ram, Chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group, was felicitated with the Raja Ram Mohan Roy award, the most prestigious award given away by the PCI annually.