Media professionals protest against government proposal to regulate online media

In a letter to Ms Smriti Irani, Minister of Information & Broadcasting, a group of over 100 journalists and other professionals related to online media  expressed concern over the government proposal to extend traditional broadcasting rules and restrictions to the Internet. This could have a drastic impact on a medium that is widely credited with making the media and information landscape more open and democratic across the world, their letter said. 

A website, https://onlinefreedomfoundation.org, has also been set up to allow ordinary citizens to oppose the move to regulate online content.

Letter to Minister of Information & Broadcasting

We are a group of Indian citizens who depend on the Internet to gather and share information on a daily basis.

We have come to know that this ministry has issued an order dated Apr 4, 2018 seeking to establish content regulations for the Internet modeled on those applicable for traditional media like print and TV. This letter is to place on record our feedback on the said order.

In the order, you make the following statements:

  1. There are no norms and guidelines for content shared on the Internet
  2. Therefore, the ministry has decided to constitute a committee to frame a regulatory framework for such content
  1. Online ‘dissemination of information’ needs to be brought under regulation on the lines applicable to print and electronic media
  1. The guidelines shall be sourced primarily from two sources: The Programming & Advertising Code for TV channels put in place by the government, and the norms circulated by traditional media organizations such as Press Council of India, News Broadcasters’ Association and Indian Broadcasting Foundation for their members.

As people engaged constantly in the dissemination of news and views on the Internet, we would like to record our response on each of the four points.

  1. On point 1, we deny the assertion there are no norms and guidelines for content on the Internet. Even a cursory reading of the IT Act would reveal that all content is covered under its scope. The Act in fact goes beyond laying down guidelines, and incorporates stiff punishments for those who violate the content norms laid down in it. Similarly, several other laws, such as the Indian Penal Code, also contain clear dos and don’ts for sharing of content, including over the Internet. Therefore, to say that there are no norms and guidelines for content online is contrary to facts.
  1. Given that the first premise — that there exists no norms for online content – is incorrect, this statement becomes logically unmaintainable as it relies on the first statement for its validity.
  1. Next, the ministry says that online content “needs to be brought under regulation on the lines applicable to print and electronic media.” Our position is that online content is different from print and television content, because most of it is produced by individual citizens in exercise of their constitutional right to freedom of expression, and embodies two way communication and interactivity, and not just publishing. Online, it is also difficult to distinguish between publishing and communications. Much of online content is borne out of an individual’s need to express opinions and exercise artistic freedom, protected by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. It is also worth noting that, according to the Indian Constitution, an individual has the same right to free speech and expression whether by word of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. Therefore, restrictions that do not apply to offline speech cannot be used to control online speech either. On the other hand, provisions that apply to offline behavior – such as the IPC – are equally applicable, and regularly applied, to online content.
  1. The objections to this proposal have already been recorded under point 3.

We reiterate that applying additional regulations on Internet content will:

  1. Impinge upon the individual citizen’s freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, and/or
  1. open up the possibility of widespread abuse and attempts to suppress of political dissent by the government and/or the regulating agency.

We request you to consider these responses, and call upon the government to withdraw its plans to create additional rules for regulation of online content.

This letter has been endorsed by all those who are mentioned below:

Raghav Bahl Co-founder, The Quint (www.thequint.com)

MK Venu Founding Editor, The Wire (www.thewire.in)

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta Sr. Journalist (@paranjoygt)

Nalini Singh Sr. Journalist (@nalinisinghtv)

Madhu Trehan Co-founder, NewsLaundry (www.newslaundry.com)

Shivam Vij Sr. Journalist (@DilliDurAst)

Sanjay Pugalia Editorial Director, The Quint

Aniruddha Bahal Editor, Cobrapost

Raman Kirpal Managing Editor, NewsLaundry

Shajan Skariah Founder & Editor, MarunadanMalayali.com

Ritu Kapur Co-founder, The Quint (www.thequint.com)

Seema Mustafa Sr. Journalist & Founder of The Citien

Dhanya Rajendran Co-founder & Editor, The News Minute

Naresh Fernandes Editor, Scroll.in

Tanmay Bhat Co-founder, AIB

(www.youtube.com/user/allindiabakchod)

Saikat Datta South Asia Editor, Asia Times

Abhinandan Sekhri Co-founder, NewsLaundry (www.newslaundry.com)

Jayadevan PK Co-founder, FactorDaily (www.factordaily.com)

Samir Bangara Co-founder, Qyuki Digital Media (www.qyuki.com)

Bharat Nayak Founding Member & Editorial Director, The Logical Indian

Kishalay Bhattacharjee Author, Defence Journalist, Filmmaker

Harini Calamur Writer, Filmmaker (@calamur)

Kuldeep Kumar Sr. Journalist (@kumar55kuldeep)

Amit Varma Editor, Pragat (thinkpragat.com)

Vignesh Vellore Co-founder & CEO, The News Minute

Rega Jha Editor, BuiiFeed India

Nikhil Pahwa Founder, Medianama

Arunava Sinha Consultng Editor, Scroll.in

Jency Jacob Managing Editor, Boomlive.in

Geeta Seshu Journalist & Media Analyst (@geetaseshu)

Pradeep Saurabh Editor, Natonal Duniya

Rangnath Singh Sr News Editor, Lokmatnews.in

CH Unnikrishnan Sr Associate Editor, Business World

Ramanathan S Partner, The News Minute

Sreejith Divakaran Executve Editor, Doolnews.com

KC Arun Editor, Abhimukham.com

Anjan Mitra Consultng Editor, Indiantelevision.com

Amalendu Upadhyaya Editor, Hastakshep.com

Pratk Sinha Founder, Alt News

Vivek Kaul Journalist & Author (@kaul_vivek)

Tript Narain Lifestyle Editor, India TV Digital

Manav Sethi Online media industry professional

Prakash K Ray Editor, Bargad.org (@pkray11)

Joyjeet Das Head, Copy Desk at Catchnews.com

Akhil Kumar Reporter, The Wire

Biraj Swain Columnist, ICFJ Fellow

Atul Chaurasia Executve Editor, NewsLaundry.com

Rohini Singh Journalist (@rohini_sgh)

Monu Rajan Journalist (Hindu Business Line)

Binita Parikh Journalist (@binita_parikh)

Gyana Ranjan Swain Founder & Editor, TeleAnalysis.com

Durga Sengupta Journalist (@the_bongrel)

Ashok Das Editor, Dalitdaskak.com

Aleesha Matharu Asst Editor, The Wire

Rifat Jawaid Founder, JantaKaReporter (former Managing Editor, TV

Today)

Kunal Majumder Journalist (@kunalmajumder)

Akhilesh Krishna Mohan Editor, FarkIndia.org

Sandesh Mysore Journalist (@SandeshMysore7)

Sreejiraj Eluvangal Journalist (@sreejiraj)

Mahima Jain Editor, Research Blog LSE (South Asia)

Shireen Aiam Digital Editor, EPW

Shelly Walia Sr. News Editor, The Quint

Sanjay Rajoura Stand-up Artst

Roy Mathew Editor, NewiScoop.com

Mahibul Hoque Hind Kisan Channel (Youtube)

Tushar Dhara Journalist (@DharaShukoh)

Ruchi Kumar Journalist (@RuchiKumar)

Pawanjot Kaur Journalist, The Wire

Raju PP Founder, TechPP.com

Subhash Gatade Writer/Actvist

Abhishek Srivastava Mediavigil.com

Mani Karthik Blogger (Manikarthik.com)

Raksha Kumar Journalist (@Raksha_Kumar)

Shweta Sengar Journalist (@shwetasengar)

Jhinuk Sen Sr Asst Editor (PCMag, TechRadar)

CL Jose Businessbenchmark.news

MP Basheer Editor, The Newsrupt (@mpbasheer)

Soumya Shankar Journalist (@shankarmya)

Aishwarya Iyer Reporter, The Quint

Shadab Moiiee Journalist (@shadabmoiiee)

Jadeer Nandi Journalist @JadeerTK

Blassey Boben Copy Editor, The Quint

Nadim Asrar Associate Editor, India Today Online

Makepeace Sitlhou Journalist (@makesyoucakes )

Lesley Esteves Digital Editor, Natonal Herald

Thomas Manuel Journalist (FB:thomasonf)

Visvak P Journalist (@visvak)

Meghnad Bose Reporter, The Quint

Amal Vijiv Journalist, NewiScoop.com

Sneha Vakharia Journalist (@sneha_vakharia)

Amandeep Sandhu Journalist (@_asandhu)

Madhu Nainan Journalist

Nitesh Pradhan Chief of Bureau, Sikkim Chronicle

Harachand S Journalist (@pillscribe007)

Dhairya Maheshwari Reporter, Natonal Herald

Vikas Jangra Journalist (@vikasjangraji)

Pragya Tiwari Journalist (@PragyaTiwari)

Rishi Majumder Journalist (@rishimajumder)

Andre Borges Video Producer, BuiiFeed

M Reyai Asst Prof (Journalism), Aliah University, Kolkata

Ashlin Mathew News Editor, Natonal Herald

Asad Ali Journalist (@da_asad_ali)

Parthshri Arora Journalist (online)

Swapnesh Dubey Blogger – Youtube (@Swapnesh_Dubey)

Vishnu Sharma Journalist (@hellovishnu)

Anand Haridas Journalist (@leospeak)

2 thoughts on “Media professionals protest against government proposal to regulate online media

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    Actually, the regulation should be on fake news and false information that is being disseminated by the right wing hindutva forces. For instance, some politicians are spreading false thoughts like technology was advanced more in Mahabharata times. Such opinions are being highlighted by media. This must be regulated as thoughts like these are harmful and detrimental to scientific advancement in the country

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