Deeply Concerned IT Rules Will Undermine Free Press: Editors Guild

The Guild urged the government to put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with stakeholders.

Published
India
3 min read
May 3 is observed across the world as the Press Freedom Day.
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The Editors Guild of India, on Saturday, 6 March, said it is “deeply concerned” about the recent notification of IT Rules that has the “potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India.”

The new IT Rules, issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, seek to impose a ‘Code of Ethics’ on digital news publications and regulate their functioning.

Claiming that the new rules can impose “unreasonable restrictions” on digital news media and media at large, the EGI’s statement expresses concern that the rules “empower the Union government to block, delete, or modify published news anywhere in the country” without judicial oversight.

The 30-page document, titled ‘Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’, places a host of strict obligations on online platforms and provides for a three-tier mechanism for regulation of all online media, which confers blocking powers to an inter-ministerial committee.

The EGI stated it was concerned about the lack of consultation by the Centre with stakeholders before bringing in the new “far-reaching” rules.

“The Guild urges the government to put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.”
Editors Guild of India statement

“The government must take note of the fact that in the name of reining an unfettered social media, it cannot overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media that has been the cornerstone of our democracy,” the statement further added.

Notice to Manipur Journo Under IT Rules

Paojel Chaoba, a journalist based in Manipur, received a notice on 1 March from the state government under the newly framed Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, over an online discussion that was conducted and uploaded on the Facebook page of his organisation, The Frontier Manipur (TFM).

However, according to The News Minute, on the evening of 2 March, another notice informed the journalist that the earlier notice under the new IT rules against him "stands withdrawn with immediate effect".

According to a report by The Wire, the notice had been issued on 1 March by the district Magistrate of Imphal West, Naorem Praveen Singh, and was delivered to Chaoba by a large number of policemen.

The online discussion for which this notice has been issued incidentally talked about the new IT rules and was uploaded on Facebook on 28 February, reported The News Minute.

Here’s the full statement by the Editors Guild of India:

“The Editors Guild of India [EGI] is deeply concerned about the notification of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Rules, issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, fundamentally alter how publishers of news operate over the internet and have the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India.

They empower the Union government 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. Various provisions in these rules can place unreasonable restrictions on digital news media, and consequently media at large.

The EGI is concerned that the Government did not consult stakeholders before notifying these far-reaching rules. The Guild urges the government to put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.

The government must take note of the fact that in the name of reining an unfettered social media it cannot overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media that has been the cornerstone of our democracy.”

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