The Centre on Tuesday quoted from Press Council of India’s report on journalistic ethics, Programme and Advertising Codes under the Cable Television Network Rules and Parliament debates, among other documents, to counter arguments by major media outlets that the new IT rules curb freedom of press.
Media outlets are against the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) as they maintain the rules are ultra vires the IT Act besides curbing the freedom of the press by giving the government pervasive control over news content.
The media outlets had argued that the new IT Rules “virtually dictate” content to news portals and are thus violative of Article 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. They argued that upon a complaint, the State has the power to enter and control news and views by way of deletion, modification or blocking, censure, compelled apology and more.
The Centre, in its counter-affidavit, argued “… The provision for directions to the publisher regarding deletion/modification of content is in the interest of transparency, and allows the publishers to challenge such orders before the courts of law, thereby acting as a further safeguard in the interest of freedom of speech,” said the affidavit.
The petitions against the new IT Rules have been filed by The Quint, Pravda Media Foundation which publishes AltNews and The Wire. The Madras High Court too is hearing a similar petition filed by a larger congregation of publishing houses under the aegis of Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA).
The Centre rejected their contention that it is violating the IT Act as well as fundamental rights through Rules that have not been scrutinised by Parliament. It argued that it is within the legislative competence of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to make the subordinate legislation.
“… The grounds put forth in the Writ Petitions challenging the maintainability of the IT Rules, 2021 in terms of the IT Act, 2000 and Article 19 of Constitutions of India are fallacious and are not based on facts and it is thus prayed that the Hon’ble Court may be pleased to dismiss Writ Petitions,” said the Centre. The Hindubusiness Line