New Delhi, January 25
The Editors Guild of India has written to Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, urging him to “expunge” the amendments to IT Rules that seek to direct social media platforms to take down news or information identified as “fake” by the PIB’s Fact Checking Unit.
In a letter sent to Vaishnaw on Tuesday, the Guild asked the ministry to initiate consultations with press bodies, media organisations and other stakeholders on the regulatory framework for digital media, so as not to undermine press freedom.
The Guild said it was “deeply concerned” by the proposed amendment giving sweeping powers to the Press Information Bureau (PIB).
“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,” it said.
The Guild noted that the role of the PIB was limited to disseminating information to news organisations on affairs of the government.
“By this proposed amendment, sweeping regulatory powers are sought to be given to this agency, which is patently illegal and unconstitutional,” it said in the letter.
The Guild reiterated that regardless of the absence of procedures, the amendment was in itself an illegal move as the PIB has no constitutional authority to be a regulator of the press in any capacity.