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Age of Bans Over, But Freedom of Speech Not Absolute: Jaitley

Govt should stay away from putting any curbs on freedom of expression as the age of bans is over, Jaitley said.

Published: 27th October 2015 04:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2015 04:30 AM   |  A+A-

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"We've taken some steps to pull out highways and steel sectors out of distress. Now something needs to be done on stalled projects and most important is to improve the health of the power sector," he said at the Credia-Bankcon summit here.| (File/PTI)

NEW DELHI: The government should stay away from putting any curbs on freedom of expression as the “age of bans is over”, Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday, adding that restrictions imposed in the Constitution played an important role in the larger interest.

Delivering the Sardar Patel lecture organised by All India Radio, the Union minister, who also holds the Finance portfolio, noted that while the right to freedom of expression has expanded in India through successive judicial verdicts and technological advances, its misuse continues to happen.

“Many believe, and I am one of those... that the age of bans is now over. It is literally impossible if not very difficult to implement them,” he said. Jaitley ruled out the idea of the involvement of the State in enforcing bans.

He pointed out that makers of the Constitution rightly held that freedom of speech and expression was not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions which were specifically defined.

Jaitley cited numerous historical judgements by courts that augmented the Right to Free Speech. He, however, added that in a changing media landscape, with the arrival of electronic media, news has became more sensational. He said there was now a difference between actual news and channel-driven news. “As the marketeers of news express their right to free speech, the viewer or the reader’s right to information and knowledge itself is also getting impacted,” he said.

Speaking about social media, he said while citizens have got a voice, it is an unregulated medium and there is also a large amount of false, defamatory and damaging content. He said in this situation, we have to rely on a sense of fairness of those who participate on social media. On the issue of freedom of speech vis-a-vis privacy, he argued that journalists had the right to conceal and protect their sources in public interest but when it comes to national security, secrecy of sources cannot be of higher importance.

“I think the way courts world over have moved, is the correct direction. There is no fundamental right to conceal your sources but there is public interest which enables you to conceal your sources. And that public interest therefore will always have to be balanced with competing public interest,” Jaitley said.



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