Editors Guild Of India Is Concerned About New Media Ethics Code, Says, ‘It Undermines Media Freedom’

Nearly a week after the Centre’s notification of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) has said these regulations will “fundamentally alter” and put “unreasonable restrictions” over digital media and therefore urged the government to take back these rules.

In the name of controlling an “unfettered social media,” the EGI said that the government cannot “overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media.” The new rules, “fundamentally alter how publishers of news operate over the Internet and have the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India,” it added.

The guild also expressed concerns over the overwhelming power that the reforms grant the government. “They empower the Union Government to block, delete, or modify published news anywhere in the country without any judicial oversight and mandate all publishers to establish a grievance redressal mechanism,” the EGI statement read.

In creating the new reforms, the EGI said, the government did not consult stakeholders and therefore it must “put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.” The Centre on February 25 notified new guidelines for intermediaries in “soft touch oversight” rules, saying these were needed to hold social media and other companies accountable for “misuse and abuse”.

The rules called for a three-tier regulation mechanism for OTT platforms like Netflix, YouTube, etc and required them to self-classify their content into five categories based on age suitability. The Centre’s announcement came amid a debate in the country to regulate digital platforms after Amazon Prime’s series “Tandav” stirred a controversy for allegedly insulting Hindu deities.

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