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Scrap rules proposed to monitor digital media: Journalists’ organisations

National Alliance of Journalists, and the Delhi Union of Journalists, say the rules are an attack publications critical of the government

Sabrangindia 04 Mar 2021

Image Courtesy:countercurrents.org

The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), have issued a statement demanding that the “ominous” rules proposed to “monitor digital media” be scrapped. The unions, of which many working journalists are members, have stated that the rules come in the wake of “manifold attacks on articles critical of the government and increasing attacks on freedom of the press and  journalistic rights.”

The unions have highlighted that it was within days of the Union Government framing rules to monitor digital media, that Manipur police went to the home of a local journalist who had hosted a discussion on the rules on his Facebook page. It was on Monday, March 1, that Paojel Chaoba, was slapped with a notice from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled state government under the recently notified Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

According to multiple news reports, this was the first official action under the new rules that were announced on February 25. However, the notice was withdrawn a day later. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had also clarified that the central government alone could enforce the Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 

However, the NAJ and DUJ, statement signed by office bearers N. Kondaiah, S.K.Pande and Sujata  Madhok, highlights that these rules are “clearly a move to control the digital news media” as well as OTT platforms, and social media companies. It states that the so-called “discomfort among a section of people” on the streaming platforms showing nudity or advocating political positions, is a “pretext for clamping down  on the entire digital spectrum. Earlier, governments at both the centre and the states have used criminal  laws, including sedition and defamation laws, to reign in journalists whose reportage and opinions they  disagree with. The Rules are one more step in this direction.”

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has delved deep into the recently released Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and has raised several red flags about privacy and censorship. The code that was announced recently covers social media platforms, digital media including news and even has rules for OTT platforms. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) will oversee the implementation in Social Media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will oversee digital media. Ever since the announcement, especially its tone and tenor and usage of words like, “Social media platforms welcome to do business in India but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India,” there have been widespread concerns primarily pertaining to misuse of the provisions to scuttle dissent and privacy. The IFF’s analysis of exactly how it impacts users and service providers, may be read here.

According to the unions, privacy is a “huge concern, as the Rules mandate that social media platforms must divulge to  government agencies the originator of any post, irrespective of encryption by companies like Signal or  WhatsApp.” Journalists may “no longer be able to protect their sources,” and this will directly affect the media’s access to information. The unions have added that the rules “have been arbitrarily drafted without adequate consultation with stakeholders and “infringe on our Constitutional freedoms, both as citizens and as media persons. We demand that they be immediately withdrawn."

Related:

IFF analyses new social media Ethics Code and digital media rules
Is there Social Justice in the Digital Economy?

Scrap rules proposed to monitor digital media: Journalists’ organisations

National Alliance of Journalists, and the Delhi Union of Journalists, say the rules are an attack publications critical of the government

Image Courtesy:countercurrents.org

The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), have issued a statement demanding that the “ominous” rules proposed to “monitor digital media” be scrapped. The unions, of which many working journalists are members, have stated that the rules come in the wake of “manifold attacks on articles critical of the government and increasing attacks on freedom of the press and  journalistic rights.”

The unions have highlighted that it was within days of the Union Government framing rules to monitor digital media, that Manipur police went to the home of a local journalist who had hosted a discussion on the rules on his Facebook page. It was on Monday, March 1, that Paojel Chaoba, was slapped with a notice from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled state government under the recently notified Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

According to multiple news reports, this was the first official action under the new rules that were announced on February 25. However, the notice was withdrawn a day later. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had also clarified that the central government alone could enforce the Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 

However, the NAJ and DUJ, statement signed by office bearers N. Kondaiah, S.K.Pande and Sujata  Madhok, highlights that these rules are “clearly a move to control the digital news media” as well as OTT platforms, and social media companies. It states that the so-called “discomfort among a section of people” on the streaming platforms showing nudity or advocating political positions, is a “pretext for clamping down  on the entire digital spectrum. Earlier, governments at both the centre and the states have used criminal  laws, including sedition and defamation laws, to reign in journalists whose reportage and opinions they  disagree with. The Rules are one more step in this direction.”

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has delved deep into the recently released Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and has raised several red flags about privacy and censorship. The code that was announced recently covers social media platforms, digital media including news and even has rules for OTT platforms. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) will oversee the implementation in Social Media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will oversee digital media. Ever since the announcement, especially its tone and tenor and usage of words like, “Social media platforms welcome to do business in India but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India,” there have been widespread concerns primarily pertaining to misuse of the provisions to scuttle dissent and privacy. The IFF’s analysis of exactly how it impacts users and service providers, may be read here.

According to the unions, privacy is a “huge concern, as the Rules mandate that social media platforms must divulge to  government agencies the originator of any post, irrespective of encryption by companies like Signal or  WhatsApp.” Journalists may “no longer be able to protect their sources,” and this will directly affect the media’s access to information. The unions have added that the rules “have been arbitrarily drafted without adequate consultation with stakeholders and “infringe on our Constitutional freedoms, both as citizens and as media persons. We demand that they be immediately withdrawn."

Related:

IFF analyses new social media Ethics Code and digital media rules
Is there Social Justice in the Digital Economy?

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