India’s rambunctious media industry is grappling with concerns over defamation and the inadequate legal protection of serious journalism

There has been outrage in the Indian press about one of India’s leading English-language news channels, Times Now, being asked to pay ₹1 billion (US$19 million) as damages for defamation. Several editorials and opinion pieces have argued that damages such as these could weaken media organizations and cripple the freedom of the press.

The facts of the case, Times Global Broadcasting Co Ltd and Anr v Parshuram Babaram Sawant, are well documented. Times Now ran a news story on 10 September 2008 about the involvement of a judge in a provident fund scam. While doing so, it mentioned Justice PK Samanta, a Calcutta High Court judge, but carried the photograph of Justice PB Sawant, a former Supreme Court judge.

Owning up

Subsequent events suggest that Times Now treated this mistake casually, although the media have been playing this down. Despite two letters from the incensed judge pointing out the error, it took Times Now almost two weeks to televise an apology and clarification.

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