The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) on Tuesday urged the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MoE&IT) to drop the draft amendment to the Information Technology Rules-2021, which empowers the Press Information Bureau’s (PIB) fact-check unit, or any other agency authorised by the Centre, to get online platforms to take down the contents identified by it as fake or false.
The Society asked the Ministry to initiate consultations with stakeholders to create a mechanism which, while ensuring factual accuracy of reports about the government’s business on media sites, meets the highest standards of fairness and due process. “The PIB or an agency of the Centre is ill-equipped to play this role,” read the INS’ statement.
Expressing concern over the proposed amendment, the society said it would seriously impact the functioning of the press in India and hand over the responsibility of checking statements relating to the Central government to any agency of the Centre “to arm itself with powers to proscribe any criticism of its actions”.
The PIB is the nodal agency of the Central government to disseminate information to print and electronic media on government policies, programmes, initiatives and achievements. “By legislating to become a judge in its own cause, the government, through a proposed amendment to a set of rules which have otherwise also caused concern, is taking a step to effectively muzzle criticism and even fair comment,” the society said.