Draft amendments proposed to Information Technology Rules 2021

Indian Newspaper Society expresses concern
Representational Pic
Representational Pic

New Delhi, Jan 24: The Indian Newspaper Society has expressed concern at the draft amendments proposed to the Information Technology Rules 2021 by the Ministry of Electronics and IT and in particular to Clause 3 (1) (b) (v) which identifies the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, or other agency authorised by the Central government, as the body (ies) responsible for checking the factual accuracy of reports appearing on any social media intermediary in respect of any business of the Central government.

In a statement, the society said that it is of the view that the proposed amendment will seriously impact the functioning of the Press in India, and hand over the responsibility of checking statements relating to the Central government to an agency of the Central government and imbue it with the power of the law. “This can give rise to mischief as it will allow the Central government to arm itself with powers to proscribe any criticism of its actions,”it said .

“By its own definition, the Press Information Bureau “is the nodal agency of the Government of India to disseminate information to the print and electronic media on government policies, programmes, initiatives and achievements,” the statement added.

Indian Newspaper Society stated that by legislating to become a judge in its own cause, the Government, through a proposed amendment to a set of rules which have otherwise also caused concern, is taking a step to effectively muzzle criticism and even fair comment.

“The Society requests the Ministry of Electronics and IT to drop the proposed amendment. It asks that the Ministry initiate consultations with stakeholders to create a mechanism which, while ensuring factual accuracy of reports about the government’s business on media sites, meets the highest standards of fairness and due process. The Press Information Bureau or an agency of the Central government is ill-equipped to play this role,” the statement said.

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