Editors Guild of India protests govt attempt to curb press freedom

Indian Government issues digital media rules

World Press Freedom Index 2020|Editors Guild of India
India slips another two places in the World Press Freedom Index 2020 Graphic via Internet Bankers Adda

On 25 February 2021, the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India under its Ministry of Electronics & IT notified its Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The notification is supposedly about the need to rein in malpractices associated with social media on the internet but has also brought under its ambit both digital media and digital news media.

The Supreme Court of India recently reiterated the fundamental right of free speech guaranteed by the constitution and also commented that dissent and criticism of the government cannot be called sedition or ‘anti-national.’ We are reproducing the first three paragraphs of the notification which is available on the internet. On 5 March 2021, the Editors Guild of India issued the following letter signed by its three office bearers which we are reproducing in its entirety below. Note that the letter says that the government has not consulted stakeholders while the notification by the Press Information Bureau claims that it has consulted stakeholders over the past one and a half years.

On 25 February 2021, the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics & IT issued a notification called the –

Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021

The first three paragraphs of the notification read: “Amidst growing concerns around lack of transparency, accountability and rights of users related to digital media and after elaborate consultation with the public and stakeholders, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 has been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.

“While finalizing these Rules, both the Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook elaborate consultations among themselves in order to have a harmonious, soft-touch oversight mechanism in relation to social media platform as well as digital media and OTT platforms etc.

“Part- II of these Rules shall be administered by Ministry of Electronics and IT, while Part-III relating to Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital media shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”

Editors Guild of India letter, signed by its three office-bearers, issued on 5 March 2021

“Dear Friends,

“The Editors Guild of India [EGI] is deeply concerned about the notification of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Rules, issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, fundamentally alter how publishers of news operate over the Internet and have the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India.

“They empower the Union Government to block, delete, or modify published news anywhere in the country without any judicial oversight and mandate all publishers to establish a grievance redressal mechanism. Various provisions in these rules can place unreasonable restrictions on digital news media, and consequently media at large.

“The EGI is concerned that the Government did not consult stakeholders before notifying these far-reaching rules. The Guild urges the Government to put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.

“The government must take note of the fact that in the name of reining [in] an unfettered social media it cannot overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media that has been the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Thanks and wishes, Seema Mustafa, President
Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary
Anant Nath, Treasurer 

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2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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