After the failed attempt to implement a policy to suspend journalist’s accreditation over fake news, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India has formed a committee without any representation of working journalists to recommend regulations for online media.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses serious concerns over the attempts to the Ministry to exert control on media and urges the Indian government to uphold the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. Further, the participation of journalists and their representative unions must be ensured in any discussions around media regulation.
On April 4, the Ministry constituted a 10-member committee including secretaries of three ministries, two departments, and representatives of the Press Council of India (PCI), News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and Indian Broadcasters Federation (IBF) to ‘frame and suggest a regulatory framework for online media / news portals including digital broadcasting and entertainment / infotainment sites and news / media aggregators’. The terms of reference of the committee include to ‘delineate the sphere of online information dissemination which needs to be brought under regulation, on the lines applicable to print and electronic media’.
Earlier, on April 2, the ministry had announced regulation to control fake news by suspending or cancelling press accreditation of the journalist found to be publishing fake news. The guidelines were withdrawn by the ministry on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after widespread criticism by the journalist community across the country.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ believes that while the Indian government’s concerns about fake news and unregulated online space may be valid, the process and the intention of recent attempts are not in accordance with international norms and principles of press freedom. The Indian government should ensure that any regulation related to media should be widely discussed among the stakeholders, including the media, journalists and their representative unions, and adhere to international standards. The IFJ strongly believes that in a democracy, media must be self-regulated and state intervention is contrary to globally accepted norms.”
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