The government on Thursday said it was concerned about the freedom of speech and expression and that the country was not in the times of 1975 or the Emergency.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting L Murugan told the Rajya Sabha that the government has initiated action against 160 TV channels and blocked 60 channels on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages as their content was against the integrity and safety of the nation.
“Our government is concerned about the freedom of speech and expression… We are not in 1975. We are not in Emergency…,” he said in the House during the Question Hour.
Murugan was responding to a question by an opposition member who alleged that the government was misusing penal provisions to curb the freedom of speech and expression.
Replying to supplementaries on action against news channels for anti-national content, he said the Press Council of India and a three-tier mechanism is place to check the content.
This, he said, includes self-regulatory mechanism and self-regulatory bodies and if the grievances are not sorted out, only then does the inter-departmental committee takes up and sorts out the issues.
“We wish to inform you that we have initiated 160 cases against TV channels,” the minister told the House.
Asked about the action against MediaOne channel, he said, “We are not doing anything on MediaOne. Whatever permissions to channels are being given (are) after the Home Ministry gives security clearance. MediaOne matter is sub-judice also.” “Within two months, our government initiated action against 60 channels whose content was against the nation and against the integrity and safety of the nation. We cannot tolerate it.
“We blocked 60 channels, including Youtube and Facebook and Twitter accounts as they disturbed the nation’s peace and security. We are concerned about the freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” the minister of state told the Rajya Sabha.
In a written reply, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said all programmes telecast on private satellite TV channels are required to adhere to the programme code laid down in Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
The rules inter-alia provide that no programme should be carried in the cable service which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes.
“The government takes action against private satellite TV channels in cases where programme code is found to be violated, by way of issuing advisories, warnings, apology scroll orders, off-air orders, etc. The Ministry also issues advisories from time to time to private satellite TV channels for adhering to the programme code,” he also said.
Thakur said the Cable Television Network (Amendment) Rules, 2021, notified on June 17 last year inter-alia provides for a three-level mechanism for redressal of grievances relating to violation of programme code by the broadcasters.
“For print media, the Press Council of India, set up under the Press Council Act, 1978, functions with twin objectives to preserve the freedom of the Press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.
“The council has framed ‘Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ for adherence by the media, which inter-cover principles and ethics of journalism and guidelines for news reporting,” the minister said.
These inter-alia contain norms relating to ‘paramount national interest’, including those which are likely to jeopardise, endanger or harm the interest of the State and Society. The council looks into complaints against print media/a violation of norms of Journalistic Conduct under Section 14 of the Press Council Act, 1978, Thakur said in the written reply. PTI