Coming down heavily on recent attempts by various sections to stifle freedom of speech, Ficci's Media and Entertainment panel said the free speech is "sacrosanct".
"We are not far from a point where someone's sneeze or a cough on a television show will be a source of offence and outrage for many...It is time for us to recognise that free speech is what is sacrosanct...," Ficci's Media and Entertainment Committee Chairman Uday Shankar told Ficci-Frames summit here.
The three-day Ficci Frames is the largest media and entertainment (M&E) jamboree in Asia.
It got off to a glittering opening here today with the global and domestic industry leaders like Walt Disney International Chairman Andy Bird and Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks & President, Disney-ABC Television, attending the function, among others.
Shankar, who also heads Star India, said: "I am shocked that there are still groups and interests who continue to debate on the right amount of freedom that can be granted to the media; as if this is something to be granted and as if this is even negotiable."
He further said the country should leverage on its democratic credentials over others like China and Russia to have a robust and truly free media.
The comments come in the wake of a string of controversies in the recent past like the releases of the film 'Vishwaroopam', in which veteran Tamil actor-producer Kamal Haasan had to face troubles in getting the film released even after a clean chit from the Censor Board, after a minority group opposed certain portions in the flick allegedly hurting their religious sentiments.
This row even forced I&B minister Manish Tewari to call for amendments to the Censor Board rules, which would ensure once a film has passed the Censor Board, it cannot be banned by the state administrations.
"The most important issue at the moment is the one on freedom of speech... we all agree that the role of the media is to question the status quo. But with the right to question must come the right to provoke and the right to offend," Shankar said, adding that we are "regressing" in this area.
He also cited the recent issues like the trouble faced by two girls in the neighbouring Palghar over a Facebook post on the hardships the public had to face following the shutdown of the megapolis after Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackery's death in November last, and Star India's hardships after the