Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Issues with the regulation of digital media by government

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of speech and expression

Mains level : Paper 2- Regulation of digital media and issues with it

The article deals with the recent decision of the government to regulate digital media through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and issues with it.

Regulating the press

  • Recently, government put the online news and current affairs portals along with “films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • Through the move, government is clubbing the only sector of the media which has pre-censorship, namely films  with the news media which has so far, at least officially, not been subject to pre-censorship.
  • The move hijacks matters before the Supreme Court of India relating to freedom of the press and freedom of expression to arm the executive with control over the free press, thereby essentially making it unfree.
  • It also hijacks another public interest litigation in the Supreme Court relating to content on “Over The Top” (OTT) platforms not being subject to regulation or official oversight to bring that sector too under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • The move creates an artificial distinction between the new-age digital media which is the media of the future, the media of the millennial generation — and the older print and TV news media.

Reasons given by the government and issues with it

  • The explanation given is that the print media have the oversight of the Press Council of India and the TV media of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).
  • Therefore the digital media needed a regulatory framework — no less than that of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • However, there is no comparison between the Press Council of India and the NBA as professional bodies on the one hand and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the other.
  • The fate of the digital media under the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting leaves little scope for hope.

Consider the question “Regulation of digital media while solving some chronic issues gives rise to concerns over the freedom of press and expression. In light of this, examine the need for regulation of digital media by government and issues in it.”

Conclusion

The government regulations would be counterproductive for both the media practitioner and the media entrepreneur and for the startups that have been the new vibrant face of contemporary journalism.

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