“Such blatant move to censor press is cause of worry,” DIGIPUB on new amendments to IT rules

Representational image | TCN Photo

In a statement, DIGIPUB, which is an association of digital media organizations said that to undermine the media’s mandate is to undermine democracy itself.

Afnan Habib | TwoCircles.net

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NEW DELHI — An association of digital media organizations has voiced alarm over a proposed change to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, which would require media companies to remove news stories that the Press Information Bureau PIB label as “fake.” 

“The proposed amendments could undermine a journalist’s duty to speak truth to power and thereby undercut the principles of accountability/transparency,” DIGIPUB News India Foundation said in a statement on January 19. 

Furthermore, the association said that the amendments to the IT rules “have the potential to suppress not just fake news but the truth.”

The statement also noted that India dropped eight spots, from 142 to 150, in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index of 180 nations and stated that such an overt attempt to suppress the press was worrying at any time.

“The government is not the only stakeholder in a thriving democracy. The media (electronic, print, and digital), information activists, civil society, etc., are equally invested in a democracy’s wellbeing and in uploading constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and expression. Therefore, the government should not have appropriate powers to legitimise what information/news is real or fake,” the association said.

In a statement on January 18, the Editors Guild of India also expressed concern over the proposed amendments to the IT rules and urged the government to reconsider the changes. The Guild disapproved of the decision, stating that suppressing news labelled as fake by the government would result in press suppression. 

On January 17, the latest draft amendment to the IT Rules was posted to the MeitY website

Urging the government to withdraw the new amendments for the free functioning of the Press in India, DIGIPUB News India Foundation concluded, “The media’s constitutional and moral duty is to ensure that the citizens know the truth. To undermine the media’s mandate is to undermine democracy itself.”

Afnan Habib is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. He tweets @afnanhabib