New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India on Friday said it was "deeply disturbed" by the "draconian" amendments to the Information Technology Rules that gave the government "absolute power" to determine fake news.
In a statement here, the Guild urged the government to withdraw the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules and hold consultations with media organisations and press bodies, as it had promised earlier.
The Guild said as per the rules, the IT Ministry has given itself the power to constitute a "fact-checking unit", which will have sweeping powers to determine what is "fake or false or misleading", with respect to "any business of the Central Government." The ministry has also empowered itself to issue instructions to 'intermediaries' (including social media intermediaries, Internet Service Providers, and other service providers), to not host such content, the Guild said.
"In effect, the government has given itself absolute power to determine what is fake or not, in respect of its own work, and order takedown," the statement said.
The Guild said there was no mention of the governing mechanism for such a fact-checking unit, the judicial oversight, the right to appeal, or adherence to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India in the Shreya Singhal v Union of India case, with respect to taking down of content or blocking of social media handles.
"All this is against principles of natural justice, and akin to censorship," it said.
The Guild said it was surprising that the Ministry had notified this amendment, without any meaningful consultation that it had promised after withdrawing the earlier draft amendments it had put out in January 2023.
"The Ministry’s notification of such draconian rules is therefore regrettable. The Guild again urges the Ministry to withdraw this notification and conduct consultations with media organisations and press bodies," it said.