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‘Our ability to tolerate is going down’

Special Correspondent
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“Best if media themselves maintain balance between free speech and responsibility”

Manish Tiwari
Manish Tiwari

“The right to free speech and expression includes the right to offend,” said Union Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Manish Tiwari on Thursday, adding the caveat that this right should be balanced by the availability of a robust set of remedies to the other side.

“Our ability to tolerate is going down,” he said, calling it “a paradox of the short fuse” — intolerance growing in direct proportion to explosion of information.

Mr. Tiwari, who was at a Press meet organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps here, said it was best that the media themselves maintain the balance between free speech and responsibility because the media’s failure to do so could result in the intervention of other institutions. He gave the example of Supreme Court guidelines on covering sensitive trials: “If self-regulation is robust, then statutory regulation would be used most sparingly.”

Mr. Tiwari said if the question was put to him whether the right to free expression included the right to offend, he would say, “yes, it does” provided robust remedies were available to the other side. The Minister’s response to the communication clampdown in Kashmir in the aftermath of the hanging of Afzal Guru, was that this was done from the perspective of law and order which fell in the exclusive domain of the States. The compulsions were stronger in States affected by insurgency and separatist movements.

Asked about frequent government advisories to broadcasters, Mr. Tiwari said his government was not a regulator by instinct but since it was answerable to Parliament it stepped in with advisories when there were aberrations. “We are cognisant that a healthy working Press is fundamental to healthy democracy. There is a small space within which we intervene.”


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