On provocative speech on TV, Supreme Court said, ‘It is like killing someone slowly’

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New Delhi:

The Supreme Court today held the “role of anchor” as “very important” while coming down on TV channels over hate speech. It also asked why the government is “remaining a mute spectator”.

“These speeches on mainstream media or social media are unregulated. It’s (the anchors’) duty to see that hate speech doesn’t continue the moment someone does. Freedom of press is important… Ours is not as free as US but we should know where to draw a line,” Justice KM Joseph observed at the hearing of a batch of petitions filed since last year.

“Hate speech is layered… Like killing someone, you can do it in multiple ways, slowly or otherwise. They keep us hooked based on certain convictions,” said the court, expanding on why hate speech interests viewers.

“Government should not take an adversarial stand but assist the court,” it further observed, remarking, “Is this a trivial issue?” 

The matter will next be heard on November 23, by when the court wants the central government to clarify if it intends to act on Law Commission recommendations on curbing hate speech.

The Law Commission, upon a prompt by the Supreme Court, had submitted a report in 2017 recommending specific laws. “Hate speech has not been defined in any law in India. However, legal provisions in certain legislations prohibit select forms of speech as an exception to freedom of speech,” the commission noted. It shared a draft legislation as well, suggesting “insertion of new sections 153C (prohibiting incitement to hatred) and 505A (causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases)”.

TV shows — late-evening debates, in particular — often go viral as clips on social media. Internet companies, thus, have also been under fire for not doing enough to curb hate speech.

Earlier this month, Google and Meta — firms that run YouTube and Facebook, among other platforms — said they’d take fresh steps to combat online extremism “by removing more violent content and promoting media literacy with young users”, at a summit in the US on fighting hate-fuelled violence.

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