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Press Club of India condemns Indian government overreach in media laws

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The Press Club of India has strongly condemned recent legislative measures that threaten press freedom. In a resolution passed on May 28, the club urged the government to retract laws that could potentially censor the media and stifle journalistic investigation.

As reported by Medianama, the resolution has garnered support from several prominent figures in the media, including Gurbir Singh, Chairman of the Press Club of Mumbai; Balbir Singh Jhandu, Secretary of the Indian Journalist Union; and Dhanya Rajendran, Chairperson of the DIGIPUB Foundation.

The Press Club’s resolution specifically targets four legislative measures: the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA) 2023, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Act 2023, and the Information Technology Amendment Rules 2023. These laws grant the government extensive powers to remove digital content deemed false or misleading, raising alarm about potential abuse and infringement on the public’s right to information.

The Broadcasting Sevices (Regulation) Bill 2023, which brings digital content and OTT platforms under regulatory oversight, has been particularly contentious. critics argue that such regulatory control could undermine citizens’ access to information and the ability of journalists to report freely.

“The government must ensure that the right to know of the people is not trampled upon. The practice of repeated internet shutdowns impedes both the citizens’ right to know and journalists’ ability to report news,” says the resolution.

The resolution also highlights amendments to the Right to Information Act (RTI), which aligns with provisions in the DPDPA, potentially weakening the RTI Act. This alignment could obstruct journalists from probing government actions, a cornerstone of a transparent democracy.

The Press Club demands that these provisions be either deleted or amended to preserve the integrity of the RTI Act, 2005.

In addition to the digital regulations, the Press Club has voiced opposition to replacing the Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act and the Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act with the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code, 2020.

The previous acts offered comprehensive protection for journalists, including wage regulation, working hours, and grievance redressal. The resolution demands the immediate restoration of these acts to safeguard journalists’ rights.

To further bolster media freedom, the Press Club suggests replacing the Press Council of India with a more inclusive ‘Media Council.’ This proposed body would encompass broadcast and digital media, involving working journalists, union representatives, media owners, and government officials. The Media Council would have the authority to enforce standards across all forms of media, ensuring accountability and integrity in journalism.

The resolution also highlights the upcoming Digital India Bill, which aims to replace the Information Technology Act of 2000. The Press Club calls on the government to involve all relevant stakeholders in the drafting process of this bill.

It stresses the importance of clearly outlining the potential risks and benefits for Indian internet users. Furthermore, it emphasises the need for a balanced approach to protect the press.

“With internet users in the country having risen to a whopping 850 million, this meeting appreciates the need for a modern legal framework for the protection of personal data, freedom of expression, and quick and easily accessible grievances redressal mechanism,” explained the resolution. “This meeting demands that the government should clearly articulate what they perceive as harms/risks, and benefits to people in India on the internet. The government has so far not provided a clear articulation of the definitions of an Open, Safe, Trusted and Accountable internet.”

The Press Club’s resolution concludes with a stern warning: future laws must not impede press freedom. Instead, they should be designed to protect the public’s right to information across all media platforms. The resolution highlights recent reforms in criminal justice laws and urges the government to avoid similar pitfalls in media regulation.

“This meeting feels that the government must ensure that proposed laws should not impede press freedom while upholding citizens’ right to privacy. The existing laws and figure legislations should not be leveraged to block or takedown legitimate news content across platforms viz. print, television, and the internet,” the resolution concludes.

Recently, the Indian government was heavily criticised for employing Section 69A of the IT Act to force YouTube to remove Bolta Hindustan and Bolta UP news channels.

A few days back, India blocked a political satire on YouTube by The Juice Media. Furthermore, here are some instances when the government went out of its way to surveil and block journalists:

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: