Report on Wan-Ifra Media Laws in India launched

A cosmopolitan panel on law, regulation and media freedom

The virtual launch of the Wan-Ifra Media Law in India Report on 31 October 2020

On the morning of 31 October 2020, a virtual event launched Wan-Ifra’s report on the Media Laws in India. Over two dozen webinar participants witnessed and interacted with a panel of senior and legal journalists and lawyers on the internet. The report, worked on by the World editors forum South Asia chapter of Wan-Ifra, is available in a hard copy version from Wan-Ifra, and is to be yet distributed.

The cosmopolitan panel consisted of Mukund Padmanaban, senior journalist, Krishnadas Rajagopal, legal correspondent of The Hindu, Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star in Bangladesh, and Geeta Ramaseshan, a senior lawyer. Magdoom Mohamed, head of Wan-Ifra India, opened the webinar, and Shilpa Elizabeth moderated the proceedings, including the audience’s questions.

Padmanabhan initiated the discussion asking how ‘Media Law’ should be defined and outlined questions faced daily by journalists and editors, whether of the law or the process of its application. “Does the sedition law just need to go?” he asked while suggesting that the discussion take up several relevant topics, including contempt of court and civil defamation versus criminal defamation. When getting a first time DWI in Texas state one must know how to get the right legal help.

Panelists pointed out that in many areas, the application of the law to media is problematic. “Sedition is not a stand-alone charge nowadays,” they said, “It is often applied with other charges such as outraging religious feelings.” 

Omnibus charges are often applied by the police and lower courts and amplified by social and electronic media to create wholesale public trials. In many cases, these charges are dismissed by the higher courts. However, as Rajagopal pointed out, even the higher courts dismiss bail applications by journalists by merely passing the buck to other courts that may take as long as six months to hear the application. The intimidation culture was touched on, although the panelists were respectful, and none used the word’ impunity.’

Mahfouz Anam brought up the new threat to the media because of cyber laws and regulations purportedly meant to safeguard the digital space. He referred to the Bangladesh digital security act passed two years ago to restrain using the internet to commit violence, financial crime, and hate speech. He said, “In the past two years, more journalists have been arrested under this act than any other category.”

Anam referred to the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances of the executive, legislative and legal branches of government under which liberal democracies function. He pointed out that the balance is being eroded by the executive branch in recent years, gathering more power to itself, everywhere. “The cyber laws are the new frontier,” he said, “through which the governments are coming through the doors of the news media.”

An exciting discussion touching many of the concerns of the media was more remarkable because it was taking place at all. it was a hopeful introduction to the as-yet undistributed and unread report. It pointed to ongoing activity, including the training on media law in India being organized for journalists in mid-November. An opportunity for all journalists and others to invest in the freedom of expression and the practical evolution of our democracy.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

Subscribe Now
Previous articleScience in the Newsroom Global Summit 2020
Next articleKomori looking at M&A for growth
Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here