Media should steer clear of sensationalism and provocative journalism to become genuine protectors of human rights, says NHRC Chairperson, Justice H.L. Dattu at a media workshop in Bengaluru (22.06.2017)

Bengaluru, 22nd June, 2017

Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, India today said that the Commission recognizes and cherishes the media as a valuable ally in addressing human rights violations in the country. However, he said that in order to become genuine protectors of human rights, the media would have to steer clear of sensationalism and provocative journalism, which can cause considerable damage to not only the concerned persons but also vitiate the larger socio-cultural-religious relations in society. Justice Dattu was delivering the inaugural address at the workshop on "Role of media in promotion and protection of human rights, organized by the NHRC in collaboration with National Law School of India University, NLSUI, Bangalore.


Justice Dattu said that the role of media in highlighting the acts of commission, omission, abetment and negligence of the State and its agencies, which result in rights violations, is indispensible to the work of the Commission. There have been several instances when media has acted as an agent for constructive change and notable developments within human rights jurisprudence. Describing journalists and other associated with media as human rights defenders, he said that attacks on them by vested interests are condemnable for not only do they weaken the freedom of the media but also democratic processes.


Justice Dattu said that media is very powerful but 'with great power comes great responsibilities' also. He said that the 'Golden Triangle', comprising equality before law, freedom of speech of expression and the protection of life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution provide the broad framework of rights and responsibilities that the media must actively speak to operate within.

Describing media trials as very anti-thesis to the rule of law, he said that these may lead to a gross miscarriage of justice, which is a matter of urgent concern and required to be pondered over by the media in earnest. He quoted a key recommendation in the 200th report of the Law Commission of India that ". Journalists need to be trained in certain aspects of law relating to freedom of speech in Article 19 (1) (a) and the restrictions which are permissible under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution as also of various human rights and Law of Defamation and Contempt."

Justice Dattu said that unfortunately, in recent times, it has been observed that mainstream media often fails to reflect some of the pressing challenges that confront large sections of society including Dalits, Adivasis, women, rural poor, urban poor and workers in the unorganized sector, among others. It appears that human rights violations only committed by the State and its various agencies against the urban elite and middle classes are now considered worthy of mainstream media space. He lauded the role of the vernacular media for continuing to highlight important human rights issues from the forgotten regions of the country.

Earlier, addressing the participants, Prof. (Dr.)R. Venkata Rao, Vice Chancellor, NLSUI lauding the role of media and the dependence of people, more the younger generation on various tools of communication to get information, raised concerns on the safety of journalists, who in exercise of freedom of expression become victims of attacks on them. He said that it is the responsibility of the State to provide protection to media persons.

Mrs. Meera Saksena, Acting Chairperson, Karnataka State Human Rights Commission though acknowledged how media reports have usefully served the Commission to take suo motu cognizance of incidents of human rights violations, underscored the harms of unconfirmed media reports. She said that media persons need to be cautious exploring the angle of scoop while reporting. People's rights should not be trampled in a rush to achieve TRPs and circulation targets.

Dr. S. N. Mohanty, Secretary General and CEO, NHRC, India said that the media would have to make its own guidelines as self-regulation is better than the government regulation. Pressure of market forces should not be allowed to compromise with the idea and practice of media in the true sense of it being the fourth pillar of democracy.

Dr. Ranjit Singh, Joint Secretary, NHRC in his introductory remarks, highlighted the role of media, social media and the concept of human rights as enshrined in the Constitution and the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. He also drew on the significance of the NHRC's collaboration with the NLSIU in organizing special programmes for building awareness. He said that the workshop for media persons is part of the same understanding and is aimed at providing a platform for an exchange of views on media practices in changing scenario and how best concerns on human rights could be addressed through media and social media.

The workshop, divided into two thematic sessions, which were chaired by Prof. (Dr.) V S Mallar, NLSIU and NHRC Member, Mr. Justice D Murugesan respectively. The speakers included, among others, senior journalist, Mr. Shekhar Gupta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Printline Media Pvt. Ltd Dr. V. Vijayakumar, NLSIU, Prof. Manoj Chakravarti, IIM, Bangalore, Sanjay R. Hegde, Sr. Advocate Supreme Court of India, Mr. Aditya Sondhi, Additional Advocate General, Karnataka.

The objective of the workshop was to bring at one forum media persons, jurists, members of legal fraternity, academicians, students and other stake holders to understand, appreciate and discuss the whole gamut of issues about the role and impact of media in promotion and protection of human rights and also the freedom of speech with focus on social media in the backdrop of concerns relating to human rights.

The participants included media persons, academicians, officers working for media communication students of mass communication, social sciences and law, representatives of NGOs.