The draft amendment to the IT Rules, 2021 “will result in the censorship of the press”, stated the Editors Guild of India (EGI) in a press statement on January 18, 2023. The Guild has urged the government to expunge the new amendment and initiate consultations with the press bodies, media organisations and other stake holders on the regulatory framework for the digital media so as to not “undermine press freedom”. The IT Ministry has proposed an amendment to the IT Rules 2021 authorising the Press Information Bureau (PIB) to fact-check news reports and online content. As per the new rule, anything flagged as “fake” by the government fact-checker will have to be taken down by online intermediaries, including social media platforms. Points raised by the Guild: The Guild notes that the government cannot solely determine fake news and that already multiple laws exist to deal with content that is found to be factually incorrect. The amendment will give sweeping powers to the PIB or “any other agency authorised by the Central government for fact checking” to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic. The amendment serves to “make it easier to muzzle the free press.” Moreover, the Editors’ body highlight that the move seems to give the government a “carte blanche to determine what is fake or not” with respect to any business of the central government. This, the Guild states, will “stifle legitimate criticism of the government” and will have a serious impact…
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