oppn parties Regulating Online Media: Involve All Stakeholders

News Snippets

  • FIH Pro League hockey: Indian men beat Argentina 5-4 while women lose to same opponents by 0-5
  • World Cup Stage II archery: Indian women's team enters final. Men's team eliminated
  • Malaysia Masters badminton: P V Sindhu enters second round
  • IPL: RR beat RCB to get another shot in Qualifier 2. RCB out of IPL
  • Referring to sandeshkhali, PM Modi says TMC blaming women to save its goons. TMC asks why Modi was silent for 15 days since the sting videos came out
  • A teenager, who was seen voting eight times for the BJP in a viral video, was arrested after Rahul gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav shared the video on their social media pages
  • The minor son of a builder in Pune, driving a Porsche, runs over two techies on a motorbike. He was arrested but granted bail with conditions by the Juvenile Board
  • PM Modi says action against the corrupt will intensify after June 4 when the NDA returns for the third term
  • Buying of wheat likely to corss 2023 mark but may miss target set for 2024
  • Arvind Kejriwal says BJP has plans to lock AAP offices and freeze the bank accounts of the party
  • Sharad pawar says PM Modi has lost confidence, MVA will win 50% seats in Maharashtra
  • FP|Is offloaded Rs 28200cr in equities in May
  • Former SBI chariman Rajnish Kumar and former Infosys CEO Mohandas Pai will step down from Buju's advisory council
  • Government to tighten norms to ensure better service from telcos
  • Banking sector net profit crosses Rs 3L cr for the first time in FY24
IPL playoffs: RR beat RCB by 4 wickets to end their dream run in the IPL. RR will meet SRH to decide the second finalist. KKR has already reached the final.
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