Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, it is the eyes and ears of this society and ideally perform the function of a moral watchdog of the public interests. Correspondingly, proving to be the interpreter between the public and different organs of our government.
For the proper functioning of this organ, it has to be independent and should be able to withstand the outside pressure and influence i.e., political parties and various other powerful organizations. Here comes into play the press council of India with the object of preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of press in India.
It is the autonomous, statutory quasi-judicial body which was first constituted on 4th July, 1966 and started functioning from November 16 of the same year (resulting in celebration of National Press Day on this date) by the Parliament on the recommendations of the First Press Commission under the chairmanship of Justice J.R Mudholkar (then a Judge of Supreme Court).
Composition of the Press Council of IndiaThe 1965 Act provided for 25 members in the council which was changed to 28 members as per the act of 1978. The term of the Chairman and the members of the Council is 3 years.Accordingly, it is a 28 member committee with the Chairman.
Functions of the press council of IndiaThe main functions of the Press Council of India as per the objectives of the Press Council Act, 1965, are as follows:
Hence, the main function of the Press Council of India is to check the media practice and to keep an eye on freedom of the press.
- Helping newspapers in maintaining their independence;
- Building up a code of conduct for journalists and newspapers according to the high professional standards;
- Ensuring that the newspapers and journalists maintain high standards of public taste and foster a due sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship;
- Encouraging the growth of a sense of responsibility and public service among all those engaged in the profession of journalism
- Reviewing any development which is likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance;
- Reviewing such cases where assistance has been received by any newspaper or news agency in India from foreign sources, as are referred to it by the Central Government;
- Promoting the establishment of such common service for the supply and dissemination of news to newspapers as may, from time to time, appear to it to be desirable;
- Providing facilities for the proper education and training of persons in the profession of journalism;
- Promoting the proper functional relationship among all classes of persons engaged in the production or publication of newspapers;
- Studying developments that may lead towards monopoly or concentration of ownership of newspapers, including a study of the ownership or financial structure of newspapers, and if necessary, to suggest remedies.
- Promoting technical or other research.
- Doing such other acts as may be incidental or conducive to the discharge of the above functions.
Powers of the Press Council of IndiaPowers of the Press Council is given in section 14 and 15 of the Press Council Act, 1965. Powers to censure are given in section 14 and some general powers are described in section15.
Power to censure : Section 14This section provides that if a complaint is made to the council, the council would give the newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist concerned an opportunity of being heard and hold an inquiry as provided under the regulations of this act. The council would not entertain a complaint if in the opinion of Chairman there is no sufficient ground for holding an inquiry. But this section does not empower the council to hold an inquiry into any matter in respect of which any proceeding is pending in the court of law. The decision of the council shall be final and shall not be questioned in any court of law.General powers of the Council: Section 15This section provides that for performing its function or for the purpose of inquiry, the council shall have the same powers throughout India as are vested in a Civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. But, this cannot compel any newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist to reveal the source of any news or information published. Furthermore, every inquiry held by the council shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding under sections 193 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code.
Press Council of India Complaint Procedure
- U/S 14 of PCI: Complaint against newspaper, editor or journalist:
- A complaint with the Press Council can be filed by any person, if there is a breach of the recognized ethical standards of journalism by the publication or non-publication of a news-statement or article, cartoon, advertisement, etc which is published in a newspaper.
- The complainant firstly has to write to the editor of the newspaper drawing his attention towards what the complainant finds objectionable. This gives the editor the opportunity to deal with the matter and take the necessary steps as in many cases the facts are usually misinterpreted by the complainant, or there is an error which the editor is ready to admit and correct.
- If the Complainant is satisfied the matter ends here, but if he is not satisfied then he can take further steps which is to refer to the Press Council.
- The complaint should contain the name and address of the editor, journalist or newspaper against whom the complaint has been drawn along with this he has to state in what manner the particular news-article, statement, cartoon, advertisement, etc is objectionable within the meaning of Press Council Act,1978 and has to provide all the relevant particulars (copies of correspondence with the editor and a declaration that no proceedings are pending in any court of law).
- As per the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979, the complaint has to be filed within two months in the case of dailies, news agencies, and weeklies. In all the other cases it has to be filed within four months.