Over a hundred journalists and other professionals working in online media wrote to Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, expressing concern over the ministry’s proposal to extend rules and regulations meant for the traditional broadcast media to the web as well. The media professionals wrote that applying legacy media structures, such as licensing and content regulation, to the internet, could have a drastic impact on a medium that is widely credited with making the media and information landscape more open and democratic across the world. Last month, the I&B ministry ordered the formation of a 10-member committee to frame rules to regulate news portals and media websites. The committee was to include secretaries of the ministries of information and broadcasting, electronics and information technology, home affairs, legal affairs and the department of industrial policy and promotion as members. It would also have had representatives of the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Indian Broadcasters Federation. But it had no representatives from the digital media space. According to a press release, the journalists who signed the letter had organised themselves using social media, particularly WhatsApp, spontaneously after news broke that the government had set up a committee to come up with a regulatory structure for online media. A website, https://onlinefreedomfoundation.org, has also been set up to allow ordinary citizens to oppose the move to regulate online content. Disclosure: MediaNama is a signatory to the letter, and Nikhil Pahwa, the founder and editor of MediaNama was involved with the drafting…
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