Law · Public Policy · Society

Need to Regulate Yellow Journalism in India


Yellow Journalism has been for quite a while abroad. In fact, the term yellow journalism is apparently derived from the instances of sensationalist reporting, scandal reporting and catering to related entertainment needs by Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and/or other New York City Newspapers in and around 1895-1898.  In India, though, this concept of reporting ordinary news in sensationalist ways and/or reporting half-baked news has only picked up in the last one/two decades. The reason for the same is the mushrooming of some private TV channels, newspapers and magazines who apparently aim at making it big by tarnishing others. They may have apparently created a rot in the media fabric of the country. Some leading media channels, TVs, newspapers, etc. may have palpably also resorted to do the same to remain ahead.

There are many instances of yellow journalism in India, for example, the live extensive coverage of Taj Mumbai terror attack (may be at the cost of national security issues), extensive coverage of Aarushi murder issue (may be at the cost of breach of privacy laws), extensive coverage of Nirbhaya rape issue (may be at the cost of conducting a media trial and prejudice to the accused), etc.

Now, the issue is who will cure this rot? Presently there are only some self-styled/self-regulatory mechanisms in place [like the Broadcasting Content Council, News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), etc] and a toothless Press Council of India. There is a need for a single, external, and strong statutory regulator for all modes of media which can order penal actions, if the any media resorts to yellow journalism. The Media cannot hide behind the garb of freedom of speech because the Article 19(2) of the Constitution itself allows curbs on this right in the public interest. Self-Regulation for the Media has failed in India. There is a need for an external statutory regulator.

The Media in India has time and again crossed the lakshman-rekha (solemn boundary) of the privacy laws. In Rajgopal v. State of Tamil Nadu [(1994) 6 SCC 632], the Supreme Court has observed that a citizen has a fundamental right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent. This law is presently not followed by the media. Hence, the facade of self-regulation and liberty of the media cannot be allowed to provide a shield to the media to infringe the rights of the others.  The Media is called the Fourth Estate. If it has the de-facto right to act as the Fourth Estate, it must also abide by the responsibilities of being the Fourth Estate. Media in India, without a real and independent external regulator, is against the interest of its readers who may be misled by its resort to the yellow journalism.

About the Author 

photo1Bhavya Nain

Bhavya is a practising lawyer, based in Delhi. He has always been passionate about legal research and legal writing. In this direction, he has worked as a Law Researcher with three Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court of India. He also has a liking for public speaking and, indeed does speak at various conferences on various social issues like Gender Justice, Corruption Laws, Corporate Governance, etc.  He likes advanced social and management science studies and currently pursuing courses from University of Virginia, USA; University of Maryland, USA; IE Business School, Madrid and Duke University, USA. His ambition is to use his knowledge and efforts for the larger public and social good.  Currently, he is working as the Senior Research Associate for Alexis Centre for Public Policy and International Relations.

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