“We are in the era of paid and fake news” remarked Justice A K Sikri on how the media undergone a complete transformation in the digital age.

Justice Sikri delivered a speech on “Freedom of press in the digital age” at the first Law Association For Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) conference held in New Delhi on Feb 10. He said the freedom of press is changing the paradigm of civil and human rights and the current pattern of media trials is an example of it.

“It is becoming very alarming but we are in the era of paid and fake news because of the digital era. Stories are created…and somebody puts it on any digital mode and these, in few hours time, become viral. The reach is a billion people,” he said.

“Media trials were there earlier also. But today what is happening is that when an issue is raised, a petition is filed, (and) even before it is taken up by the court, people start discussing what should be the outcome. Not what ‘is’ the outcome, (but) what ‘should be’ the outcome. And let me tell you from my experience here that it has an influence on how a judge decides a case.

It is not so much in the Supreme Court because by the time they come to the apex court they are quite matured and they know how the case is to be decided on the basis of law irrespective of what is happening in the media. Today judging is under stress,” Justice Sikri said.

He said though social media has become a watchdog, there was a challenge to human rights also as there is a real threat of surveillance by both private and public players.

“How data is mined, how players like Facebook, WhatsApp etc collate data, how they can see what their consumers’ choices and preferences are. If it affects the freedom of people, privacy of people, then it becomes a very dangerous instrument. And issues of dignity comes in,” he said.

He also emphasised that the power of contempt of court is not being used that much.

Learn more about the 1st LAWASIA Human Rights Conference 2019. The conference also explored a broad range of human rights issues of relevance in the Asia Pacific region, including: Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights, New Technologies, Privacy and Mass Surveillance, Experiences and Challenges of Human Rights Lawyers, Aggressive Policing and Human Rights, Cross-border Migration & its Conflicts, Climate Change, Water Conflicts & Human Rights, and Business and Human Rights.

Inputs/Image credit: PTI

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