The Centre’s Narendra Modi government has formed a committee to regulate news websites and online media just days after it was forced to make a hasty U-turn on a controversial order on punishing journalists for fake news.
The controversial order targeting accreditated journalists was passed by the Smriti Irani-led Information and Broadcasting ministry. The government had then claimed that the order was withdrawn on Modi’s intervention. However, many critics were quick to point out that the order of such magbitutude could not have been passed without the prime minister’s approval adding that it was only to test the reactions from the media fraternity.
Irani has now set up a committee that will discuss and recommend a regulatory framework for online media including news websites. This assumes significance in light of the crucial role played by many websites including Janta Ka Rwporter to hold the government to account amidst TV channels virtually having surrendered their editorial freedom.
An IANS report said that the Information and Broadcasting Secretary will lead the grouping that was set up on Wednesday, a day after the ministry withdrew its guidelines on fake news.
The IANS report further added that the 10-member committee included secretaries of the ministries of Home, Electronics and Information Technology, Law and Industrial Policy and Promotion. It also has representatives from the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters’ Association and the Indian Broadcasters Federation.
The group has been asked to identify what part of online information dissemination needs to be regulated on the lines of the print and electronic media.
“It will do so keeping in mind the existing FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) norms, programmes and advertising code for TV channels and norms circulated by the representative bodies of media organisations,” the ministry’s order said.
Irani had first indicated her intention to regulate social media and websites while speaking to News18 at a conclave last month.
The committee has also been asked to compare regulatory mechanism in other countries and incorporate best practices.
“There are no norms or guidelines to regulate the online media websites and news portals. Therefore, it has been decided to constitute a committee to frame and suggest a regulatory framework for online media/ news portals including digital broadcasting and entertainment/ infotainment sites and news/ media aggregators,” says the government in its order.