Draft IT Rules have potential to muzzle the press: Digital news consortium DigiPub
New Delhi: DigiPub, a consortium of digital news outlets in the country, has said the proposed amendments to the IT Rules can potentially become a "convenient institutional mechanism to muzzle the press".
In a statement on Thursday, DigiPub News India Foundation also said the government should not appropriate powers to legitimise what information or news is real or fake.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Electronics, Information Technology proposed amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 asking social media companies to take down news articles that have been deemed "fake" by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) or any other agency authorised by the central government for fact-checking.
"DigiPub firmly believes that the nuisance of disinformation/misinformation needs to be checked. However, the proposed amendments assign arbitrary and discretionary power to the government of India to determine whether the content is 'fake' without prescribing any procedures or recourse therefrom," the statement said.
It said the government was not the only stakeholder in a thriving democracy.
"The media (electronic, print and digital), information activists, and civil society are equally invested in a democracy's well-being and in upholding constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and expression.
"Therefore, the government should not appropriate powers to legitimise what information/news is real or fake," the statement said.
On Wednesday, the Editors Guild of India asked the government to "expunge" the amendments to the IT Rules and initiate "meaningful consultations" with press bodies, media organisations and other stakeholders on the regulatory framework for digital media.