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Fake news has capacity to destroy democracy, says CJI Chandrachud, wants ‘selective quoting of judges’ to stop

CJI D.Y. Chandrachud was speaking at the 2023 Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, where he also emphasised the importance of free media in a democracy.

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New Delhi: Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud Wednesday highlighted the impact that fake news can have on democracy and expressed discontent with the “selective quoting” of judges.

The CJI was speaking at the 2023 Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards. Indian Express Group Chairman and Managing Director Viveck Goenka delivered the welcome address.

The CJI began his speech with the Emergency imposed in 1975 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, saying that while it was a fearful time, it gave rise to fearless journalism.

“It is the job of the media to convey information to the public without violating the rights of the innocents. Responsible journalism is the beacon of truth and it drives democracy forward,” CJI Chandrachud said.

“As we navigate challenges of digital age, journalists have to maintain accuracy, impartiality and fearlessness in their reporting.”

He said journalists are constantly endeavouring to simplify complex facts and break them down, but added that this simplification of information should not be at the cost of accuracy.

Highlighting the importance of media freedom, the CJI said that the press must remain free if the country has to remain a democracy.

In recent years, he added, there has been a rising interest in legal journalism. “However, selective quoting of judgments and speeches of judges by journalists in India has become a matter of concern. This practice has the tendency to distort public understanding of legal issues. Judges’ decisions are often complex and nuanced, and selective quoting can give the impression that a verdict is entirely different than what the judge intended.”

It is essential for journalists to give a complete picture of the event and report accurately and factually, he added.

Need for fact-check

Among other things, CJI Chandrachud pointed to the need for a comprehensive fact-check mechanism for news.

“Fake news can create tensions among communities and there is a need to bridge the gap between truth and the lie,” he said. “Fake news has the capacity to disturb, if not destroy, the democracy.”

Speaking of media trials, CJI Chandrachud asserted there have been instances where the media has rendered an accused guilty in the eyes of the public even before the courts found them to be so.

The CJI also highlighted the importance of the media in society, particularly during challenging times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic: “The plight of migrant labourers, suo motu cognisance of essential services, of Hathras case… revelations brought to us by media.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: I&B Ministry warns mainstream TV news against using ‘unparliamentary language and hyperbole’


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