‘MIB issued notice to digital news publishers despite stay from Bombay & Madras HCs’
As per the Internet Freedom Foundation, the notice - dated September 9, 2021 - was issued after Bombay HC stayed certain IT rules that conferred MIB with authority to regulate digital news media
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) issued notices to digital news publishers despite interim orders by the Madras and Bombay High Courts staying operation of the three-tier grievance redressal mechanism and the Code of Ethics, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has found.
The MIB had asked digital news publishers to furnish details under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules). The ministry had also said that more than 2,100 publishers, including news and OTT platforms, have already furnished details.
The IFF filed an RTI Application to find out if the MIB had indeed issued such notices and to which publishers. The ministry replied to the RTI application on January 14. In its response, it said the notices had been issued on May 26, 2021, and September 9, 2021.
This, the IFF said, was a surprising revelation as the second notice - dated September 9, 2021 - was issued after the Bombay High Court’s stay on certain rules of the IT Rules 2021, which conferred authority on the MIB to regulate digital news media.
"The MIB also revealed that more than 2,100 publishers (of news media, as well as OTT platforms) have already furnished their details to the MIB. However, when asked how many of these publishers furnished their details after 14.08.2021, the MIB refused to provide the data, stating that this information does not exist at all," the IFF said in a statement on its website.
Under Rule 18 of the IT Rules 2021, publishers of news and current affairs content, and online curated content are required to inform the MIB about their entities and furnish related information. This rule is pursuant to a 3-tier structure established by the IT Rules, and a Code of Ethics contained within the IT Rules.
However, the Bombay High Court (in Agij Promotion Of Nineteenonea Media Pvt. Ltd. & Ors v. Union Of India & Anr - order dated 14th August 2021), and the Madras High Court (in T.M. Krishna v Union of India - order dated 16th September 2021) stayed the operation of this 3-tier structure and the Code of Ethics.
"Despite this, we were informed by digital news media publishers that the MIB has issued them notices to furnish information regarding themselves to the MIB. We filed an RTI application on 03.01.2022 to confirm whether this was the case, to understand the authority under which these notices were issued, and to which publishers," the IFF noted.
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