Great power come great responsibility
“With great power there must also come…great responsibility”; this very notion illustrates the ‘duties and responsibilities' entailed by the exercise of a relatively powerful rights possesses by human beings; the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression coupled with usage of media instruments, for instance printed materials or audio-visual, further increase the ‘power' to impart information on much wider range; susceptible to abuse. Therefore, Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that, “the exercise of these freedoms…carries with it duties and responsibilities…” This conception had also been advocated by European Court of Human Rights via various notable judgments.
Analysing the media case laws; it is submitted that there are both positive and negative ‘duties and responsibilities' imposed on the media in exercising their freedom of expression through publications or other means. There are certain limits ought not to be surpassed; also standard ought to be met. ‘Duties and responsibilities' imposed depends on the situation and technical means used. Regardless, the exercise of such rights has to be done with observance to the interest seeks to be protected by the proviso of Article 10(2).
From the nature of the media itself, one can derive ‘duties and responsibilities' on the media. As advocated in the Castells v. Spain case, it is incumbent for media to impart information and ideas on political and public interest issues. This correlates with their utmost duties as ‘public watchdog'; playing an essential role in ensuring the proper functioning of a democratic society. Their duty in imparting information would inevitably encounter necessary exaggeration or provocation and even publishing some information which was trustworthy but not proven explicitly. Such situation might infringe others rights, reputation, national order or even security.
Hence, media case laws had elaborated the ‘duties and responsibilities' that was embodied in Article 10(2). The Court had stated that the press must not overstep certain bounds particularly in respect of the reputation and rights of others and the need to prevent disclosure of confidential information. One can observe that the duty to impart information is qualified by the responsibilities of not affecting others reputation and confidentiality; also other limitation stipulated in Article 10(2). ‘Duties and responsibilities' are liable to assume significance when there is a question of attacking the reputation of a named individual and infringing the ‘rights of others'. Note that the mentioned limitation varies according to different affected entities; for instance the level of tolerance of government or politicians are relatively wider than private persons. Judging from several dicta by the court, the media when imparting information have ‘duty and responsibility' to weigh the impact of the disclosure to the subject involved and do not exceed the permitted limitation. Therefore, there is a negative ‘duty and responsibility' on the media not to surpass certain limits.
In addition, media case laws also indicated the ‘duty and responsibility' of journalist to act in good faith and on accurate and factual basis; also to provide ‘reliable and precise' information in accordance with journalism ethics. In order to provide accurate and reliable information the journalist (media) has the ‘duty and responsibility', to certain extent, to conduct an investigation on the information received. This will depend on the nature and degree of the defamation in hand; also the reliability of the source. The reliability of the source must be determined in the light of the situation as it presented itself to the journalist at the material time, rather than with the benefit of hindsight. There are many instances where a journalist ought to abide journalism ethics; such as allowing publish of a fraught reply from the affected party, obligation to carry out a meaningful investigation before making particularly serious accusations, ensuring the accuracy of historical rather than perishable and others. Further, journalist also has a valuable secondary role of maintaining and making available to the public archives containing news which had previously been reported; in conjunction with the emerging usage of internet as means of media. Note also that the medium used in imparting information creates different level of ‘duties and responsibilities'; due to distinct coverage. Hereby, one can conclude the existence of ‘duties and responsibilities' on the media to meet certain obligation when exercising freedom of expression.
In a nut shell, the exercise of freedom of expression by the media does entail ‘duties and responsibilities', though subjected the circumstances. The mechanism of ‘margin of appreciation' and ‘balancing competing interest at stake' practice plays an important role in determining the status of adherence.