Taking exception to “some specifics” of the IT Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules 2021, put out on February 25, DIGIPUB News India Foundation argued they “appear to go against the fundamental principle of news and its role in a democracy”.
In a letter to Prakash Javadekar, minister for I&B, and Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for electronics and IT, the association of digital news organisations on Friday said while self-regulation of all news media was “imperative and the need of the hour”, the rules gave the government vast powers that ran counter to the principle of freedom of expression enshrined in the Indian constitution.
It added that while the freedom of expression was subject to restrictions, they must be “reasonable, fair and just”.
In this case, the association noted, “rules and laws already exist to hold news media accountable”, yet the new rules enable the government to even remove content published as current affairs or news.
More worryingly, it added, the rules bypass established legal processes in favour of adjudication by a body of bureaucrats controlled by the central government. “This goes against the principle of separation of powers,” it said.
The association said it had written to the I&B minister in early December, “requesting to be part of a consultation process” regarding the rules but it never received a reply. “We believe it’s still not too late,” the letter added. “We request you to repeal these rules, or at least put them on hold, until meaningful consultations are undertaken with all the stakeholders.”