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Govt trying to regulate free speech by amending IT rules: NBDA


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New Delhi: The News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) on Tuesday expressed “anguish” at the recent amendment of the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code and said the Amendment appears to be a direct attempt on the part of the government to regulate free speech.

In a statement, NBDA said that, “It is of serious concern that by virtue of the said Amendment, the Ministry has given itself the power to designate a fact check unit which would act as an ‘adjudicator of truth’ and will have unbridled and unfettered right to determine what is ‘fake’, ‘false’ or ‘misleading”

Demanding the withdrawal of the Amendment, it said, despite the concerns expressed by various media organizations including the NBDA, the said Amendment has been issued by the Ministry without proper consultation.

“In view of the apprehensions expressed above, NBDA requests the Ministry to withdraw the aforesaid amendment” it said.

The IT ministry recently brought in fact-check provisions of the IT Amendment Rules, according to which the government will notify an entity that will flag false information posted online with regards to the government.

It said “the amendment as it would result in suppression of any legitimate criticism or analysis of the Government, its policies and its actions… adding that this will have a ‘chilling effect’ on the freedom of speech and expression granted to the Media under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution”

The NBDA also alleged that the “Amendment also directly affects the news media as the ‘intermediaries’ may be coerced by the ‘fact check unit’ designated by the Ministry to take down alleged ‘fake’, ‘false’ or ‘misleading’ news content without following the principles of natural justice”

“This would also result in preventing any comment or criticism of the Government” it said.

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