We’ve gone from having to wait for the morning paper to get our news, to now having it appear on our phones in real time. This evolution has come with changes in the laws surrounding news. India is a strongly mobile-focused market, with 72% accessing news through smartphones and just 35% via computers.[1] Daily reports from every corner of the nation are broadcast on a wide range of local, national, and regional news outlets[2]. While the way we consume news has changed drastically over the years, one thing remains constant: the need for accurate and unbiased reporting. Unfortunately, not all news sources are created equal. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in so-called “fake news” stories that are designed to mislead readers. In this blog, we’ll explore how these changes have altered both how information is shared and the legal ramifications that come with it. From 30 papers of newspaper to 30 seconds reel on social media, we’ll take a look at how far journalism has come, the evolution of media through the Judiciary and why understanding the laws that regulate it is so important.

What is News and How Has it Evolved?

Information is a general term for everything with the capacity to inform. When news value is added to the information, it becomes news. We can define news as an incidence taken place within the preceding 24 hours that was not previously known to the general public, was of considerable general interest, and piqued listeners’ curiosity. Instead, they’re turning to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for real-time updates on what’s happening in the world.

Thankfully, there are laws in place that help protect consumers from false or misleading information. In India, for example, there’s Article 19 of the Constitution of India which guarantees freedom of the press.[3] This means that journalists are free to report on whatever they want without fear of government censorship. The widespread use of social media is a challenge for policymakers because these networks are also full of false information, constant trolling, and abuse. Independent reporting suggests such behaviour is sometimes coordinated by actors close to major political parties[4]

How Have Laws Changed to Accommodate the Evolving News

The right to freedom in One of the six freedoms guaranteed by article 19 is the freedom of speech and expression. The basic right to freedom of the press is implied in the right to freedom of speech and expression, even though article 19 does not expressly mention it.[5] Being in the business of obtaining and disseminating information, the media is expected to occupy a dominating position, which puts it in a position of great responsibility and accountability to the general public.[6]

Press: India adheres to statutory regulation because of the Press Council Act, it is also self-regulating The Press Council Acts of 1965[7] and 1978 reshaped India’s media history. The media community had a mechanism to lodge complaints, and the public and government both had a forum to address issues with how the media operate. After India gained independence, the majority of newspapers were distributed among Indians.[8] With the establishment of the Press Trust of India in 1946, news agency services became regularly accessible.

The Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2022[9] has recently reignited efforts to control digital media (“RPP Bill 2022”). The primary goal of the RPP Bill 2022 is to regulate the digital news media sector in order to equalise the status of digital news portals and newspapers It would be interesting to watch if the scope of this definition is maintained by the RPP Bill 2022.

Digital Media: The Information Technology Act of 2000 was passed by the legislature to protect citizens against breaches of data privacy. If a social media comment provoked “annoyance” or was deemed “grossly offensive,” Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000[10] provided for three years in prison.[11] In 2021, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules[12] went into effect, imposing a number of requirements on social media platforms in particular as well as internet intermediaries in general. A prominent social media intermediary’s primary responsibility is to work to use technology-based measures, such as automated tools, to proactively identify unlawful information, whether express or implied or any content whose substance is exactly the same as the information that has already been deleted or to which access has been restricted.

Evolution of Media through THE Judiciary

The Times of India Vs. Arabinda Bose & Ors[13]

The Editor, Printer, and Publisher of the “Times of India” (daily), Bombay and Delhi, were charged with contempt of court by the Supreme Court of India for publishing a leading item, which went beyond what may be considered acceptable criticism, in their publication on October 30, 1952, headed “A Disturbing Decision.”

Manohar Lal Sharma v Union of India[14]

The Pegasus Project, an international collaboration of 17 media organisations and Amnesty International, published a list of 50,000 phone numbers that the Pegasus Spyware could have targeted. A number of petitions were submitted by journalists, activists, and politicians who were impacted, requesting a judicial investigation into the use of spyware by the Indian government. The Supreme Court has said that the fear of surveillance is an “attack” on press freedom and that a breach of the right to privacy can lead to self-censorship.

Vinod Dua v Union of India[15]

A sedition FIR brought against journalist Vinod Dua because of a video in which he criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the COVID incident was quashed by the Supreme Court. In doing so, the Court reaffirmed the standards established in Kedar Nath Singh, which stated that every journalist is entitled to protection within the confines of section 124 A of the IPC, 1860[16], and that a sedition prosecution is only brought when evidence of incitement to violence or a tendency or intention to cause public disorder is presented.

Sanjay Dutt vs State Through C.B.I. Bombay[17]

Sanjay Dutt had served 23 years in and out of jail after being given a prison term by the C.B.I. Bombay for his alleged participation in the 1993 Mumbai serial blast case. Sanjay Dutt was acquitted by the TADA court of all allegations when it was noted that he had obtained firearms for self-defence and that he was not a terrorist. The media utterly ignores the crucial difference between the guilty and innocent parties by upholding the concepts of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” and “presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.”

Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India[18]

Supreme Court of India has upheld a ban on internet access in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Although the court did not remove internet censorship, it did require the government to review the directives in light of the proportionality test. On the basis of a danger, limits may be imposed in accordance with Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code[19], but they cannot be used to repress the public’s right to an informed opinion.

Understanding the Impact of Digital Media on the Evolution of News

The evolution of news has made a positive impact on society. Firstly, it has made news more accessible to people around the globe. You no longer need to be in a specific location to get your news. Secondly, social media has also made news more interactive. This two-way interaction has led to a more democratised and decentralized news landscape where anyone can be a reporter or commentator.

Lastly, social media has also accelerated the pace of news cycles. News is now being broken and reported in real-time. Despite its advantages, social media is quickly replacing traditional journalism, rendering it obsolete. Journalists are unable to fully present a detailed description of events due to a lack of training, which gives traditional journalists the opportunity to speak with authority. As the result Media has now transformed itself into a Janta Adalats or ‘public court’ and started intervening in the proceedings of the court.[20] As media continues to evolve, it’s likely that these laws will continue to change as well.

Author(s) Name: Divya Nimbalkar (ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad )


[1] Reuters Institute and University of Oxford, ‘Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022’ accessed on 15 January 2023  

[2] S SivaKumar, “Fourth Estate: A Shield or Sword of Human Rights?” 1 Lanka Vigil 34 (2005).

[3] Constitution of India, 1950, art. 19(1) (a) states: All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. This right is available only to a citizen of India and not to foreign nationals. This right is, however, not absolute and it allows Government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions as given under Article 19 (2) in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality and contempt of court, defamation incitement to an offence

[4] Ibid 1

[5] 3 Virender v. State of Punjab, AIR 1958 SC 986 and Sakal Papers v. Union of India AIR 1962 SC 305.

[6] L. Dahlberg, E. Siapera, Radical Democracy and the Internet: Interrogating Theory and Practice. (Palgrave Macmillan publications, London, 2007).

[7] Press Council Act, 1978

[8] S Sivakumar, Press law and Journalists: Watchdog to Guidedog (Universal Law Publications, New Delhi, 2015).

[9] Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2022

[10] Information Technology Act, 2000, s. 66A

[11]Akshita Gupta, ‘Challenges faced by the Indian media with respect to media laws and ethics’ (Ipleader, 7 October 2021) accessed 19 January 2023

[12] Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

[13] AIR 1953 SC 75

[14] WP(CRL) NO. 314 OF 2021

[15] WP (CRL) NO.154 OF 2020

[16] Indian Penal Code, 1860, s. 124A

[17] SLP (CRL) 1834-35 of 1994

[18] WP (CIVIL) NO. 1031 OF 2019

[19] Code of Criminal procedure, s. 144

[20] Vanya Verma, ‘Famous cases of media trials in India’ (Ipleader,10 March 2021) accessed on 19 January 2023

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