India ranks an abysmal 133rd among 180 countries in the Freedom of Press Index. Moreover, a 2011 survey by a Hong Kong based research firm had said that India is the most over-regulated country in the world. But all this has not quelled the call for more regulation. The Supreme Court on Thursday did well to strike down one such request calling for regulation of media content. According to The Indian Express, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, replying to a plea filed by NGO Common Cause, said that pre-broadcast or pre-publication censorship was not the area of the court. Representing the NGO, advocate Prashant Bhushan said that “self-regulation has not worked for media… the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as content regulator, has failed completely in protecting the interests and basic rights of the audience”. The SC highlighted that neither the court nor a government department could deal with this.
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The idea of objectionable content itself is quite arbitrary—what can be objectionable for one person might not be so for the other. To say that rules have not worked would not be right as well, as the government has banned channel like AXN in the past for indecent programming content. While it is true that self-regulation has not worked the way people would have wanted it to, one has to realise that freedom can’t be curbed in the name of regulation. In any case, over-regulation cannot be the answer to everything.