Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Editors Guild expresses concern at amendment to IT rules, says Union alone cannot determine fake news

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Wednesday expressed concern over a draft amendment made to the Information Technology Rules-2021 by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, which empowers the Press Information Bureau to “fact-check” contents and direct social media platforms to take down anything deemed “fake.” The EGI sought its removal.

The Guild has said that the determination of fake news cannot be in the sole hands of the government as it will result in the censorship of the press.

The EGI also urged the Ministry to initiate consultations with press bodies, media organizations, and other stakeholders on the regulatory framework for digital media “so as to not undermine press freedom.”

“…determination of fake news cannot be in the sole hands of the government and will result in the censorship of the press. Already multiple laws exist to deal with content that is found to be factually incorrect. This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press, and will give sweeping powers to the PIB, or ‘any other agency authorised by the Central government for fact checking’, to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic,” read the statement of Guild.

The Guild said the words “in respect of any business of the Central government” seemed to give the government a “carte blanche” to determine what was fake or not with respect to its own work.

“This will stifle legitimate criticism of the government and will have an adverse impact on the ability of the press to hold governments to account, which is a vital role it plays in a democracy,” it said.

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