oppn parties Regulating Online Media: Involve All Stakeholders

News Snippets

  • Maratha quota bill likely to be tabled in Maharashtra assembly today
  • Arvind Kejriwal skips ED summons for the 6th time, says the case is in court and will follow court's decision
  • PM Modi says UP has gone from 'red tape' to 'red carpet' in 7 years of 'double engine' government
  • Farm unions reject government offers, to resume Delhi march from today
  • Centre says some Aadhar cards in Bengal 'deactivated' due to technical glitz, will be activated back soon
  • Supreme Court stays LS privilege panel summons to Bengal officials over BJP MP Sukanta Majumdar injury case
  • Supreme Court junks Sandeshkhali petition, says it cannot be compared to Manipur, asks petitioner to approach Calcutta HC
  • Supreme Court gets tough on Chandigarh mayoral elections, asks for ballot papers and video footage, does not order re-election
  • Government starts withdrawing old small tax demands, up to Rs 25000 per entry till FY 2009-10 and up to Rs 10000 per entry from FY 2010-11 to FY 2014-15 with an overall ceiling of Rs 1 lakh per tax payer
  • Stocks remained positive on Monday: Sensex gained 281 points to 72708 and Nifty 81 points to 22122
  • Jasprit Bumrah likely to be rested for 4th Test while K L Rahul may be back
  • FIH Pro League hockey: India beat Spain 8-7 in shootout
  • SP leader Salim Sherwani, miffed at no Muslim candidate given RS ticket, quits party
  • Army going for big (Rs 57000cr) upgrade in combat vehicles to replace T-72 tanks
  • Mamata Banerjee says the BJP is doing nothing to resolve the Sandeshkhali dispute but instead fanning the fires to escalate it
History created in Supreme Court as Chandigarh mayoral poll ballots counted in court, judges declare AAP candidate Kuldeep Kumar winner after taking into account the votes defaced by returning officer Anil Masih
oppn parties
Regulating Online Media: Involve All Stakeholders

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2018-04-06 15:10:48

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator.
As I&B minister Smriti Irani had promised during the ‘fake news’ order fiasco that the government would clamp down on mushrooming websites masquerading as news portals, it has set up a committee to examine how the online media space can be regulated. Although no official circular has been released, a ‘leaked’ copy is available on the internet (as reported by NDTV). It is a step in the right direction. But as usual, the government is going about the task in a partisan manner.

Take a look at the people who will man the committee. Secretaries from the ministries of I&B, law, home, electronics and IT, the department of industrial policy and promotion, along with the chief executive of MyGov, and representatives of the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Indian Broadcasters Federation are going to have a place in the committee. But where is the representation from the online media space? Shouldn’t a committee that seeks to regulate them have their representatives in the committee that will frame the rules?

There is no doubt that online news portals, opinion sites, educational or entertainment websites or any other websites that disseminate information that shapes public opinion need to be regulated like the print and broadcast media. This is necessary because in the absence of any pre-licensing and almost negligible cost of setting up, any and every one is jumping on the online bandwagon. Further, with penetration of internet increasing manifold and mobile devices becoming cheaper, the potential reach of these websites is immense. So is their potential to cause mischief through dissemination of 'fake’ news and slanted opinions.

Having recognized this, it also needs to be remembered that the government already has a draconian law to regulate the internet space in the form of the Information Technology Act (IT Act). As of now, this law does not differentiate between an individual and an organization. Anyone who is found to violate the provisions can be hauled up. Further, technology makes it easy for the government to pinpoint the source that uploaded the offending piece of news.

Hence, when online media is regulated, the first requirement after issuing licenses would be to take it out of the ambit of the IT Act. If it will be regulated by another set of rules or a new law, then the draconian provisions of the IT Act should not be applicable to such licensed entities. They should also be governed by the laws that are applicable to print and broadcast media. All other facilities, duties and responsibilities, including accreditation, should be at par with those applicable to the print and broadcasting media.

One is sure that no one running a digital media website would resent being brought under regulation provided this is done transparently, in consultation with all stakeholders and in a non-partisan manner. The government, by excluding digital media representatives from the committee, has made its intention clear. Rules for regulation of the digital media space will be made by bureaucrats who will care little about freedom of the press when drafting them. All digital media websites should strongly protest this.

the writer can be contacted at sunilgarodia@gmail.com