NEW DELHI: “The press in India has greatly contributed to the strengthening of democracy in the country. It will have a pivotal role to play for the continued existence of a vibrant democracy in the country,” Justice KM Joseph has written in his judgement on the Rafale deal review petitions.

The Judge has reminded the media of its duties, especially the visual media. And stated, “it must realise that its consumers are entitled to demand that the stream of information that flows from it, must remain unpolluted by considerations other than truth”.

He further said, "A free person must be fearless. Fear can be of losing all or any of the things that is held dear by the journalist. A free man cannot be biased.

Bias comes in many forms. Bias if it is established as per the principles which are applicable is sufficient to vitiate the decisions of public authorities. A free person must be fearless. Fear can be of losing all or any of the things that is held dear by the journalist. A free man cannot be biased."

Talking about biases and prejudice Justice Joseph said, “the rule against bias is an important axiom to be observed by Judges. Equally the Press including the visual media cannot be biased and yet be free... It is, in fact, a wholly unjustifiable onslaught on the vital right of the people to truthful information under Article 19(1)(a) which, in turn, is the bedrock of many other rights of the citizens also.”

He added, "In fact, the right of the press in India is no higher than the right of the citizens under Article 19(1) (a) and is traced to the same provision."

Justice Joseph highlighted the problem of corporate and political groups taking over media houses and silencing their freedom of speech. In his judgement he said, "If freedom is enjoyed by the press without a deep sense of responsibility, it can weaken democracy. In some sections, there appears to be a disturbing trend of bias. Controlling business interests and political allegiances appear to erode the duty of dispassionate and impartial purveying of information."

Justice Joseph quoted from Beyond the Lines written by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar, “journalism as a profession has changed a great deal from what it was in our times. I feel an acute sense of disappointment, not only because it has deteriorated in quality and direction but also because I do not see journalists attempting to revive the values one practiced. The proliferation of newspapers and television channels has no doubt affected the quality of content, particularly reporting. Too many individuals are competing for the same space.

What appalls me most is that editorial primacy has been sacrificed at the alter of commercialism and vested interests. It hurts to see many journalists bending backwards to remain handmaidens of the proprietors, on the one hand, and of the establishment, on the other. This is so different from what we were used to.”