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Govt of India to "manage" online portals, to have code of conduct, legislation; seeks publication of news, not views

By Our Representative
In a new move amidst what are widely considered as increasing attempts to "manage" the country's media, by the Narendra Modi government is now thinking of coming up with a regulatory framework, if possible a legislation, to control online media, which has seen a sharp spurt in the country ever since it came to power in May 2014.
The move, significantly, comes after several "independent" minded journalists are made to leave the country's top newspapers and TV channels, the latest being Harish Khare, who recently resigned as editor of "The Tribune", following a controversy around a story exposing aadhaar's privacy.
Speaking at the News18 ‘Rising India Summit’ in New Delhi, Smriti Irani, Union information and broadcasting minister, while refusing to give details of her plan, revealed that the Government of India is all set to come up with a "code of conduct" for the digital media.
Complaining that she was concerned about increasing capacity of fake news to “defame” and “demean”, and the tendency of “certain journalists and media personalities” to cross the “very fine line” between "news and views”, she said, it would be obligatory on the part of online "media agencies" to follow this “code of conduct”.
Irani said, she “is already in talks with the concerned stakeholders” on the issue. A top online news portal, “The Wire”, which has lately "disturbed" the powers-that-be with its major exposures, especially on BJP chief Amit Shah’s son allegedly amassing huge sums taking advantage of demonetization, immediately commented, the proposal would open up "a new front in the Modi government’s controversial relationship with the media."
Irani’s remarks were made in response to a question by TV18 political editor Marya Shakil on “a lot of hate, abuse” on social media, asking the minister if she thought the “government can in any way intervene without really crossing its brief”.
Suggesting that the issue requires a balanced and delicate approach, she said replied, while television, radio and newspapers had to adhere to a code, “online is an ecosystem where legislation in terms of news, legislation in terms of broadcast content material, is not very clear. That is something that the ministry is currently undertaking.”
Significance, the demand for a regulatory authority over what has come to known as alternate media has begun following a pleas by what are regarded as pro-establishment media bodies. One of them, Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) has, for instance, insisted that this should be done in order to ensure that things are reported in reported in the "right perspective".
According to JFA, online portals are beginning to “pollute” vernacular media, underlining, the latter often consider them as "trustworthy as the established news agencies", republishing things "without verification." A powerful media council, JFA said, would be able to address this kind of flaw "more efficiently."
Meanwhile, Sevanti Ninan, editor of "The Hoot", an established mediawatch website, has been quoted as saying, "News invested with views is not the same as either trolling or fake news, so this is problematic, to put it mildly”, adding, Irani wants "views to be labeled differently from news in a news product on online media, through a code of ethics."
Ninan underlined, “If that is what the ministry is working on, it is a naive concept”, adding, the “distinguish between trolling on social media, fake news, and opinionated news.” And if Irani was referring to news bias, this cannot be "tackled through regulation without affecting freedom of speech.”

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
The day is not far off when we will have to take this government's permission for everything we do in our daily lives

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