New IT rules seriously undermine media freedom: Editors Guild
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has urged the government on Saturday to put the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, “in abeyance", stating that it has the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India.
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has urged the government on Saturday to put the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 “in abeyance”, stating that it has the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India.
The EGI has issued a strongly worded press statement, in which, they have criticised the government for trying to “overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media that has been the cornerstone of a democracy”, in the name of “reining in an unfettered social media”.
The Rules, issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, fundamentally alter how publishers of news operate over the Internet and has the potential to seriously erode the freedom of the media in India, the statement said.
Further, the EGI said that the Rules seem to give the Union government “overwhelming power” to “ block, delete, or modify published news anywhere in the country without any judicial oversight and mandate all publishers to establish a grievance redressal mechanism”. These provisions can place “unreasonable restrictions” on digital news media and the media at large.
Concerned that the government did not consult the stakeholders before notifying these “far-reaching rules”, the Guild has urged the government to “put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.”
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were announced by the Centre on February 25. The Rules will have ramifications for social media and media intermediaries like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc., and there’s a separate section that focuses on digital news and the digital content space. Notifying new guidelines for intermediaries, the government had said that they were needed to hold social media and other companies accountable for “misuse and abuse”.
Although the Rules target digital news media, social media and OTT streaming platforms, the prime target is the politically-crucial digital news media, as it has a wider reach now as compared to conventional print media. The new rules treat digital news at par with the social media and the IT Rules 2021 can potentially be used to stifle criticism, media analysts have said.
For OTT platforms like Netflix, YouTube, etc., the rules required them to set up a three-tier regulation mechanism and to self-classify their content into five categories based on age suitability.
The Centre has brought in these Rules in the wake of an outcry among certain sections in the country to regulate digital platforms, after Amazon Prime’s series Tandav allegedly insulted Hindu deities.