To this effect, the applicants have moved an intervention application in the matter of Firoz Iqbal Khan v. Union of India concerning permissible free speech which the apex court is seized of in the Writ Petition as also in light of the ad-interim order dated September 15, 2020, passed in the Petition, both of which have implications on the treatment of content under the legal framework in India.
“Given the conspectus of issues which have arisen for consideration before this Hon’ble Court and the manifest implications of the outcome on free speech advocates and in particular on organizations which disseminate content for public consumption, it is humbly submitted that the Applicants have the requisite locus to be arrayed as parties to the proceedings to put forth their position on the said issues,” the application read.
A broad array of issues have been highlighted by the applicants with the respect to the issues raised, reliefs sought and the orders passed thus far in the Writ Petition. The applicants have raised pertinent questions regarding the jurisdiction of the court to directly restrain content during the pendency of an examination by the appropriate State authority on the legality of the content under applicable laws.
Another issue pointed out by the petitioner is that if the appropriate state authorities do not find anything objectionable with the content under the applicable law, can the constitutional courts assume the role of the State to restrain the broadcast and consumption of such content. Furthermore, it has raised a question if the court could stop the broadcast of such content without considering the public’s right to consume.
In addition to these, other issues spotlighted by the applicants if regarding the constitutional permissibility for the Constitutional Courts to judicially legislate a new species of impermissible speech, namely ‘Hate Speech’ and the jurisprudence on “Hate Speech” in India and in other jurisdictions. The application also questions if it would be fair and reasonable to lay down law on hate speech based on a particular instance without considering the contemporary landscape on the exercise of free speech.
OpIndia report on how Indic faiths have been falsely reported by the mainstream media organisations in India
The applicants have placed before the Hon’ble Court the contemporary exercise of free speech by vast sections of the media unless the court assumes that the case highlighted to it in the Writ Petition is a one-off instance. They have sought to place before the court a report titled ‘A Study on Contemporary Standards in Religious Reporting by Mass Media” prepared by OpIndia which captures approximately 100 instances of patently false reportage by mainstream media organizations whose reach and stature lend credibility to their content in the minds of the readers.
In each of the instances enumerated in the report with over 90 references, Indic faiths and Indic communities have been the subject of blanket stereotyping, generalisation and demonisation which have become common in the mainstream media. The report by OpIndia highlights how facts are twisted to force-fit a particular narrative against Hindus, and perpetrators of one particular community are shielded, their crimes minimised and on some occasion whitewashed at the expense of other communities. Therefore, the moral construct that constitutes hate speech cannot be applied selectively whilst talking about one community.
The report attached demonstrates instances of blatant Hinduphobia that was displayed by the media in their coverage by distorting facts, selectively quoting details, pictorial representations, fake news and opinion articles. In light of the case before the court now, the report would serve to assist the court in discerning how the standard of discourse has been set by the mass media over the years. In the report, the fake reportage related to Saffron terror, the fake cases propagated by the media of Muslims being made to chant Jai Shree Ram and being beaten up, the skewed reportage of Delhi Riots and much more find a mention.
You can read the full intervention application and the OpIndia report attached at the end here: