NEW DELHI – Amid growing criticism, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Saturday said the new IT rules introduced by the Union government have the potential to undermine media freedom in India.
“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,” the EGI statement, signed by its office bearers, Seema Mustafa, Sanjay Kapoor, and Anant Nath, said.
In its statement, the EGI expressed its concerns about the recent notification of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which gives the information and broadcasting ministry emergency powers to summarily take down content from digital platforms, including news websites, without giving a hearing to the publisher.
“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,” it said.
The EGI expressed its worry over the fact that the Union government did not deem it necessary to consult various stakeholders before notifying these “far-reaching” rules, and it put the rules in “abeyance” and “conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.”
While the government has said that the rules were meant to keep a check on unbridled transmission of malafide content and fake content on social media, the EGI said that while doing so it could not “overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media that has been the cornerstone of our democracy.”