Journos protest extension of traditional broadcasting rules & restrictions to the Internet

May 3, 2018

Gangtok, 02 May:

A group of over 100 journalists and other professionals related to the online media today wrote to the Information & Broadcasting Minister, Smriti Irani, to register their concerns over the Ministry’s proposal to extend traditional broadcasting rules and restrictions to the Internet, a press release informs.

The journalists include both veterans of the industry like Raghav Bahl, MK Venu, Madhu Trehan, Nalini Singh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Shivam Vij, Sanjay Pugalia, Aniruddha Bahal and Raman Kirpal, as well as younger generation media entrepreneurs like Dhanya Rajendran [The News Minute], Seema Mustafa [The Citizen], Ritu Kapur [The Quint], Tanmay Bhat [All India Bakchod] and Bharat Nayak [The Logical Indian].

In their letter, the journalists and media professionals expressed concerns that bringing legacy media structures -- such as licensing and content regulation -- could have a drastic impact on a medium that is widely credited with making the media and information landscape more open and democratic across the world.

“Internet based media, by its very nature, promotes broader democratic values globally and cannot be dealt with in the way national governments try to regulate or control traditional media,” said founding Editor at The Wire, a new-generation, online-only publication, MK Venu.

“Internet based media and global media aggregators like Facebook, Google have changed the content and distribution landscape in ways that national governments cannot easily control. Nor should they try to. It is a free democratic space and must remain as such,” he added.

Journalist and media analyst, Geeta Seshu, too called on the government to embrace the change the spirit of freedom brought about by the Internet in media and communication sectors.

She expressed disappointment at the government’s attempt to ‘regulate’ online media by setting up a committee comprising mostly of government officials.

Founder editor of The Citizen, Seema Mustafa, warned that chances of ‘online content regulation’ being used for suppression of opinions critical of the government remain very high.

It may be mentioned here, the journalists organized themselves using social media, particularly WhatsApp, spontaneously after news broke that the government had set up a committee to come up with a regulatory structure for online media “on the lines applicable to print and electronic media”.

A website, https://onlinefreedomfoundation.org, has also been set up to allow ordinary citizens to oppose the move to regulate online content.

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