"The proposed amendments can potentially become a convenient institutional mechanism to muzzle the press," said digital media consortium DIGIPUB* yesterday on the Indian government's latest plans to give itself powers to determine online information as "fake". "The proposed amendments could undermine a journalists' duty to speak truth to power and thereby undercut the principles of accountability/transparency and have the potential to suppress not just fake news but the truth...To undermine the media's mandate is to undermine democracy itself." The consortium has requested the government to consider withdrawing the plan. DIGIPUB’s statement on the draft amendments to the IT Rules, 2021, made by MEITY. pic.twitter.com/ufQFVYngc7 — DIGIPUB News India Foundation (@DigipubIndia) January 19, 2023 About the government's misinformation plans: They were quietly proposed as amendments to the IT Rules, 2021, on Tuesday, and outlaw platforms from hosting any information fact-checked to be "false" or "fake" by the Indian government's Press Information Bureau (PIB), or any other government agency. The amendment is deathly quiet on safeguards to prevent its misuse, raising concerns that the government will use these unfettered powers to wrongly label certain kinds of information as "false". Why it matters: The PIB has been prone to bias in the past, flagging news articles critical of the Indian government. That's why DIGIPUB and other news organisations are worried—will critical journalism survive such a broad amendment? Who else can uphold democracy: "The Government is not the only stakeholder in a thriving democracy," added DIGIPUB. "The media (electronic, print and digital), information activists, civil society etc., are…
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