DIGIPUB News India Foundation has been granted approval by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to function as a self-regulatory body (SRB) for publishers of news and current affairs content as per Rule 12 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, according to a notice uploaded on the ministry’s website.
The self-regulatory body will be headed by former Supreme Court of India judge Madan Lokur along with two other committee members: Swarna Rajagopalan, Founder and Director, Prajnya Trust; and Bezwada Wilson, National Convenor, Safai Karamchari Andolan.
“The process took longer than it should have as there was a reconciliation exercise. The Ministry (MIB) wanted to ensure that those on the DIGIPUB list had registered with the Ministry as per the digital media rules,” DIGIPUB’s Chairperson Dhanya Rajendran told MediaNama.
Rule 12 of the IT Rules stipulates that publishers would have to form an independent body for grievance redressal. The self-regulatory body must be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court. They can also be an eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, and human rights. The body will not have more than six committee members.
A total of eight bodies have received approval from the MIB since the IT Rules came into effect in May last year. The criteria for granting approval to these bodies continue to remain unclear and the government has made no efforts to reveal them either. It is ironic given that the purported aim of the IT Rules is to bring about transparency and accountability.
Two others granted approval to serve as an SRB
Besides DIGIPUB, the MIB has granted approvals to the Working Journalist Media Council (WJMC) and Digital Media Publishers & News Portal Grievance Council of India.
What is the composition of these bodies?
The following are WJMC committee members:
- Chair: Kumar Saurav, Journalist
- Praveen Govind Jha, Journalist
- Vinit Panday, Legal advisor to media houses
- Sameer Goyal, Legal advisor to media houses
- Gunjan, National President, WJMC
- J.P Tripathi, Vice President, WJMC
Here’s a list of Digital Media Publishers & News Portal Grievance Council of India committee members:
- Chair: Firdos Mirza, Bombay High Court advocate
- E.Z. Khobragade, IAS (Retd.)
- Vinayak Deshpande, Vice-Chancellor, G.H Raisoni University
- Dr. Vikas Pathak, Deputy Political Editor, Outlook Magazine
- Anand Deshpande, Bombay High Court advocate
- Kalyan Kumar, Bombay High Court advocate
- Devnath Gandate, Journalist
Why is the government not revealing the criteria to grant approval?
For example, DIGIPUB* had to follow up for months with the ministry. MIB has not even revealed the date on which DIGIPUB first applied for registration. The date of communication is specified in the approval letters of other SRBs. Hence, the missing piece of information in DIGIPUB’s case is interesting.
MediaNama had sent the following questions to Amarendra Singh, Deputy Secretary, Digital Media, MIB, while reporting on the approval granted to another self-regulatory body in March 2022:
- What is the process of registering as a self-regulatory body under the IT Rules 2021 with the ministry?
- How many applications have been approved so far?
- What is the criteria on which approval is granted by the ministry?
- How much time does it take on average for the ministry to grant approvals?
- What are grounds for rejection of the application?
- How many applications are pending with the ministry?
It did not elicit any response. Moreover, a Right to Information (RTI) request was filed with the digital media division of the MIB. “This Division does not deal with Self Regulating Organisation. Therefore, the desired information is not available,” was the response. A response to another RTI related to self-regulatory bodies pointed to the provisions laid down in the IT Rules for self-regulatory bodies.
The MIB is yet to codify the parameters of the self-regulatory body as there are no clear guidelines on how an organisation can obtain approval. One of the questions which need to be clarified is if the decisions on complaints will be made by the panel of six, or is there a provision for forming sub-committees. MIB should also clarify the tenure of the members and the head of a self-regulatory body.
Which organisations come under each of these SRBs?
The organisations affiliated with DIGIPUB are:
- eNewsroom India
- Citizen Matters
- Mojo Story
- HW News
- India Spend
- Indian Writers Forum
- G Plus
- News Moments
- Nezine Media
- Nicobar Times
- NorthEast Now
- Ommcom News
- People’s Archive of Rural India
- People’s Reporter
- Satya Hindi
- The Sikkim Chronicle
- The Shudra
- The Newsrupt
- The News Minute
- The India Forum
- The Cue
- The Citizen
- The Better India
- Suno India
- The Ken
- The Leaflet
- The Morning Context
- The News Mill
- The Public India
- Clarion India
- Dool 360 News
- MaxMaharashtra Media
- News Meter
- Millat Times
- True Copy
- Sakshi Joshi
- Aajtak Marathi
- ED Times
- Bar and Bench
- News East Mojo
- Media Vigil
- Freemedia Interactive Pvt Ltd (Faye D’Souza)
- Inside NorthEast
- Dastak Live News
- Akash Banerji (Namb Digital Media)
- Ajit Anjum
- Vibes of India
These are the websites associated with the WJMC:
The following are the organisations under the Digital Media Publishers & News Portal Grievance Council of India:
Which SRBs have been approved by MIB?
There were five SRBs that were approved before April 2022:
- Web Journalists’ Standards Authority
- News Broadcasters Federation-Professional News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBF-PNBSA)
- Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council affiliated to the IAMAI
- Indian Digital Publishers Content Grievance Council (IDPCGC)
- Media9 Digital Foundation
*Disclaimer: MediaNama is a member of the DIGIPUB News Media Foundation.
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