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‘Regulate digital news media before cracking down on TV news’: Govt to Supreme Court

Censorship, news

In the ongoing Supreme Court case against Sudarshan News, the central government tipped its hand and revealed that more than cracking down on bigoted content on broadcast media, it is interested in censoring online news media. In an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) before the apex court, the government said it wants the court to lay down guidelines for “web based digital media” before laying down guidelines for mainstream electronic and print media. MIB argued that unlike electronic and print media whose regulation is covered by law or court cases, online media, which includes “web magazines”, “web-based news channels” and “web-based newspapers”, are “completely uncontrolled” with very wide reach. The affidavit, filed by Vijay Kaushik, under secretary in the ministry, in fact argued that either the apex court should leave wider issues to be considered by the central government and related legislature, or start with regulation of digital media. The government argued that by virtue of using public property, that is, “spectrum” and “internet”, online news media should be regulated by the government, just as electronic media is for using "airwaves". The MIB filed this affidavit while the top court was hearing a PIL filed by Firoz Iqbal Khan against Sudarshan News for broadcasting a show with Islamophobic content. Suresh Chavhanke, the channel’s editor-in-chief, had hosted an episode titled “UPSC Jihad” about the supposed rise of Muslims in Civil services on the programme “Bindas Bol”. On September 15, the Supreme Court had directed the channel…

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