Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Wednesday said that fake news can create tensions between communities and thus endanger democratic values.
Speaking at the 16th Ramnath Goenka awards ceremony, the CJI, who was the chief guest, termed responsible journalism as the engine which drives democracy towards a better future.
“Responsible journalism is the engine that drives democracy forward to a better tomorrow. In a digital age, it is more important than ever for journalists to be accurate, impartial, responsible and fearless in their reporting,” he said.
Referring to the Emergency era, when the Indian Express carried blank op-ed pages, CJI Chandrachud said it is a reminder how powerful silence is.
“It was a fearful time but fearless time also gives rise to fearless journalism,” he said, adding that June 25, 1975 is a defining moment in our history.
“One proclamation defined and redefined our perceptions of liberty and threats to it and how tenuous it can be,” he said, adding that is “why we celebrate these awards as symbolising our eternal sense of optimism on which we hope nation will continue.”
The CJI stressed that there is a need to bridge the gap between truth and lie.
“Fake news has the capability of creating tensions between communities, thereby endangering democratic values of fraternity,” he said, adding that “journalists and lawyers (or judges in my case) share something in common. Both share a belief in the saying ‘pen is mightier than the sword’.”
He said that vibrancy of democracy is compromised when press is prevented from speaking truth to power.
“The press must remain free if the country is to remain a democracy. Newspapers have historically acted as catalysts for social and political change”, he said, adding that a comprehensive fact-checking mechanism should be in place as fake news can guide or misguide millions at once in contradiction to the fundamentals of democracy.
Referring to media trials, Chandrachud said there have been instances where media has rendered an accused guilty in eyes of public even before the courts find them so.
“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 its drives the democracy forward. We at present navigate challenges of digital age and journalists have to maintain accuracy, impartiality and fearlessness in their reporting,” he said.