DIGIPUB establishes high-level ombudsman process/content review committee

The independent committee represents an additional, voluntary layer of transparency on the part of member publications

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Mar 30, 2021 12:34 PM  | 3 min read

DIGIPUB News India Foundation, an association of independent publishers of digital news, has formed an independent, high-level ombudsman process/content review committee. The independent committee represents an additional, voluntary layer of transparency on the part of our member publications.

The committee comprises Justice Madan B. Lokur (retd.), former judge of the Supreme Court of India; Swarna Rajagopalan, founder and director for the Prajnya Trust; Bezwada Wilson, a founder of the Safai Karamchari Andolan; and Jawhar Sircar, former CEO of Prasar Bharati and former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

In a statement, DIGIPUB said that a few of our members have had independent internal mechanisms for review in place for some years, while others are in the process of formulating their own in-house procedures of varying formality.

"DIGIPUB and its members see these mechanisms as part of our commitment to professional media ethics, which includes providing our readers – who may have bona fide objections to particular published content – an opportunity to reach out to us," it added.

DIGIPUB said it is in the process of working out the modalities of the committee's functioning and work, including an appropriate and practical referral system, and will make that public in due course.

Referring to the IT Rules 2021, the foundation stated that any attempt by the executive to regulate the content of news portals or publications would be to strike not only at the constitutional scheme but at democracy itself.
The government recently brought digital news platforms under the ambit of regulation through Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The digital news platforms will now have to follow the journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India (PCI) and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act, which are already applicable to print and TV. This, the government said, will provide a level playing field.

The government further stated that the rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers, OTT Platforms and digital media.

The publisher will have to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take a decision on every grievance it receives within 15 days.

There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

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