A simple apprehension is not enough to block the publication of a newspaper: High Court of Madras

Madras High Court said on Thursday that “dynamic media” is an asset to any democratic country and refused to block newspaper publication after rejecting a plea challenging the exemption granted to print and electronic media from the national lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A division bench comprising Judge N. Kirubakaran and Judge R Hemalatha said that “mere apprehension or the slightest likelihood” of whether the disease can be spread through newspapers cannot be grounds for banning their publication as it would amount to a violation of the fundamental rights of not only the publisher, the publisher but also the readers.

Counsel for the petitioner relied on research studies which indicated that the Corona virus would persist for up to 4 to 5 days and 24 days in paper and board, respectively. He said that when advanced countries struggle to control the spread of the virus, a developing country like India should not suffer because of the circulation of newspapers, because there is a probability

spread of the virus.

However, Additional General Counsel PH Aravind Pandian argued that research in this area was very limited and not definitive.

“If there is a possibility of the virus spreading not only through newspaper sources, even through the circulation of money, the virus could spread,” he said and went on to point out that Dr T Jacob John, professor of virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore had said that the spread of the virus through newspapers or newspapers is at least.

While dismissing the petition, the court said that the petitioner’s research studies had been carried out in countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom and that, again, the governments had not banned the publication of newspapers. and stressed that with preliminary research and in the absence of sufficient data, the newspaper publication would not be blocked.

The court also observed the importance of the media in a democracy and that any attempt to restrict or ban the publication of newspapers would amount to muzzling the independence of the media while distinguishing news from opinions.

“What is expected are only the news and not the opinions of the publisher,” said the court. “The news, as it is, should be presented to readers and not the views of the editors or its ideology. Although they have the right to put forward their ideology, people only want the news as it is. be avoided. However, it is a fact that some editors mix their views with the news. ”

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