IT guidelines assault media’s core freedom. Judges ought to see authorized challenges to guidelines in that gentle

New IT rules that apply indiscriminately to all digital content are facing a number of legal challenges. This is exactly how it should be, since government regulations made no fundamental differences. Digital news and breaking news publishers are right to ask why news media are equated with social media and OTT platforms. Recently, the Kerala HC protected broadcasters from coercion in a petition from the National Broadcasters Association. The Digital News Publishers Association, to which the Times of India belongs, has also challenged the constitutionality of these rules in Madras HC. The PTI news agency has relocated the Delhi HC. At this point it should also be noted that, contrary to common practice, oddly enough there was no consultation with the news media prior to this regulation.

In contrast to social media platforms, news is already regulated by the Press Council, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, and the National Broadcasting Standards Authority. Therefore, additional rules were unnecessary from the outset. In fact, the IT law that deals with digital intermediaries doesn’t even apply to news publishers. It also does not cover content regulation, except in cases of cyber terrorism, sexually explicit and obscene material, child pornography. Note that these just don’t apply to news media.

Therefore, IT regulations as subordinate legislation cannot go far beyond the scope of the parent law. These rules, with their three-tier system for redressing complaints, place high demands on compliance and ultimately empower the central government to adhere to a “code of ethics” in the media, using vague and subjective terms such as “half-truths” and “good taste”. and “decency”. They were introduced as rules to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and debates. As they are, these rules appear to be an attempt to intimidate the news media into self-censorship, in addition to giving the government extensive powers over news content. The news publishers rightly fear twisting their arms and coercion.

In India there is no express provision in the style of the First Amendment on freedom of the press. However, when other ill-considered media gagging laws were proposed in the past, the SC has strongly protected media rights in its interpretation of Article 19 (a) as part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and expression. It shouldn’t just be the SC, however. All courts must demonstrate a strong commitment to media independence. As some of the challenging petitions say, these rules will bring surveillance of news agencies and fear of government dictation. That is unacceptable and anti-democratic.

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This piece appeared as an editorial statement in the print edition of the Times of India.


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