Sunday, March 3, 2024

“Adverse to spirit of freedom of speech”: Editors Guild expresses concern over draft broadcast Bill

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) wrote a letter to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, regarding the newly introduced Broadcast Services (Regulation) Bill.

The representation submitted by EGI raised concerns about the union government’s untamed powers to monitor and block content and prohibit free speech on vague grounds. The letter dated December 7, 2022, was made public on Monday. 

It argued that the draft of the legislation circulated by the government is “vague and excessively intrusive”.

The Guild further contended that the new bill would prove “adverse to the spirit of freedom of speech and freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution” and would pave the way for the establishment of an “overarching censorship framework” under the guise of a broadcast advisory council.

The letter outlined four major concerns regarding the bill which will cover all broadcasting services, including news broadcasting, and also extend to digital news platforms.

It suggested that the content evaluation committees mandated by the amendment will allow the government to impose stringent restrictions on media organisations.

The censorship framework as structured by the bill, with an advisory council headed by a bureaucrat, will grant authoritative power and unprecedented impunity to the government.

The guild also criticised the provision prohibiting the transmission of channels or programmes on vague grounds.

“Provisions that allow government excessive delegation of rule-making are also problematic as they lead to uncertainty for the stakeholders who may be impacted by the draft bill and prevent individuals from being fully informed so as to meaningfully engage in the consultation process,” the letter added.

The letter ended with a request to bring changes in the draft after “meaningful consultation” with all the stakeholders.

Editors Guild of India is an organisation established in 1978 to protect the freedom of the press and to raise the standards of editorial leadership of newspapers, magazines and online news publishers.

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