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Mass Media Laws and Regulations in India

Article excerpt

* Mass Media Laws and Regulations in India, 2d ed. Venkat Iyer, ed. Singapore: Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), 2000. 573 pp. $30 pbk.

In their recent study of the mass media in India, communication scholars K. Viswanath and Kavita Karan noted, "The struggle between seemingly inexorable forces of globalization and liberalization, on the one hand, and forces-for ideological and not so noble reasons-that want to maintain a strong state presence, on the other, is being played out in several public arenas, including the media."

Amidst the ongoing massive social, political, and legal changes in India, the revised edition of Mass Media Laws and Regulations in India came at an opportune time as the first of its kind to compile all the major laws and codes of ethics. Editor Venkat Iyer of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland states that his book aims to provide an overview of the laws and industry codes affecting the Indian media. The book, whose first edition was published under the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre's (AMIC) media law project in 1993, was prepared for media practitioners, mass communication students, and lay people who are interested in the subject.

The commentary section of the book offers a contextual framework of the mass media laws in India from a broader perspective. It first surveys the evolution of media law in India from its British colonial rule. The rule-of-law philosophy of India's liberal democracy is then discussed as an important contributor to making press freedom the norm, not the exception, during most of India's post-- independence era.

In his analysis of the constitutional provisions on freedom of the press, Iyer pays close attention to the active role of Indian courts in expanding press freedom. India serves as good testimony to Boston University law professor Pnina Lahav's 1985 proposition that "[a] court within any democracy, given a healthy and substantive commitment to free speech, can protect the press by conventional methods of statutory interpretation."

Iyer's commentary includes the salient features of the media law and industry codes. His distinction between general and specific media lays down a useful statutory scheme for Indian press law. He delineates a number of specific statutes with content-regulatory elements. Among the statutes highlighted are those that restrict the mass media for national security, public morals, reputation and privacy, and other societal interests. …