Many forms did not have details about self-regulating bodies, Vikram Sahay.
Information and Broadcasting Ministry Joint Secretary Vikram Sahay said on Friday that over 1,500 publishers had so far submitted information in the formats prescribed under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
The formats were released on May 26.
“Several bodies/associations have sent communication regarding constitution of self-regulating body,” he said at a virtual interactive meeting organised by the Press Information Bureau (South Zone), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in association with the Film Federation of India.
The session on Digital Media Ethics Code-2021 was attended by representatives of various digital media and film associations.
Mr. Sahay said although many forms did not have details about self-regulating bodies, the publishers should nevertheless furnish the rest of the basic details. The bodies would come up in due course. The publishers could come together at the State or regional level to form such bodies headed by persons of eminence, if not retired Supreme Court/High Court judges, he said.
Several entities in Kerala, Patna and Jammu & Kashmir had already expressed interest in forming small bodies.
He clarified that digital media platforms that were part of traditional media outlets were not required to join a separate self-regulating body.
“The concern is only one that once you are a news publisher, you are expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics. Anyone can get into this profession… there is no pre-registration, no prior permission required, that is the real power of the digital media,” he said.
The Joint Secretary said anyone who was into a casual enterprise of placing some news on intermediary platforms, or putting out non-news contents, was not a publisher. Such a person was required only to adhere to the due diligence part under the intermediary platform framework.
During the interaction, film industry representatives requested parity with OTT platforms on the issues of censorship and age-wise classification of contents.
Mr. Sahay said the government had earlier received a large number of grievances and representations from elected representatives on the lack of an institutional mechanism for the digital media. There were also a spate of court cases. All these aspects were taken into account, regulatory practices in other countries examined and consultations held with various stakeholders before notifying the new rules under the existing laws.
The key features of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, are due diligence by intermediaries; Code of Ethics for publishers; a three-tier co-regulatory framework; and furnishing and disclosure of information by publishers.
The Code of Ethics for online news publishers essentially covers the norms of journalistic conduct under the Press Council Act, Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Rules), and non-transmission of prohibited contents. The reasonable restrictions as provided in the Constitution also apply.
Under the grievance redress mechanism, the first level requires appointment of grievance officers by publishers in India; self-regulating bodies come at the second level, and the third is an oversight mechanism at the Ministry level.
The self-regulating body’s functions include overseeing adherence to the Code, addressing grievances or appeals, issuing warnings and reclassifying contents, apart from referring to the Ministry cases involving contents that may incite commission of a cognisable offence related to public order or circumstances covered under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
At the Ministry level, there is a provision for an inter-departmental committee, on whose recommendation the government has to issue orders. The government can suo motu issue interim order for blocking any content in emergency cases on matters covered under Section 69A. All orders of blocking have to be placed before a review committee.
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