The Union government is of the opinion that the Supreme Court should frame guidelines drawing the line between journalistic freedom and responsible journalism for digital media first rather than mainstream electronic and print media.
According to the Centre, web-based news portals, YouTube channels as well as Over the Top (OTT) platforms had huge potential to become viral. Unlike mainstream publication and telecast, digital media was perpetually widening its viewership, like in a loop, through multiple web and social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook. Hence, what was written or shown in digital media had "serious impact and potential".
The Court had stayed the broadcast of the show "Bindas Bol" on Sudarshan TV on September 15 as show was accused of "vilifying" members of the Muslim community who join the civil services. The Court had proposed the Centre to frame guidelines against communal and derogatory content in mainstream media.
Senior advocate Anup Chaudhuri acting for petitioner Firoz Iqbal Khan, urged the court to initiate contempt against Suresh Chavhanke – the show's anchor and the channel's editor-in-chief – for his tweets published after the stay order.
In an affidavit, Mr. Chavhanke justified the content of his programme. He maintained that "there is no statement or message in the four episodes broadcast that members of a particular community should not join UPSC".
The Centre's 33-page affidavit does not confine to Sudarshan TV but focuses on the larger aspect of framing of media guidelines. It said digital media should not be overlooked at any cost. The government reasoned, "While in a mainstream media [whether electronic or print], the publication / telecast is a one-time act, the digital media has faster reach".
On September 15, the court underlined that "journalistic freedom is not absolute".
Justice Joseph on the Bench had said, "Journalists need to be fair in their debates. We have to remember that their freedom is the same as that of any other citizen".
Justice Chandrachud had referred to how media tend to cover only one part of an investigation. Media had a duty to comment fairly. "Reputation and image cannot be damaged... Media cannot fall foul of standards prescribed by themselves", he said.