Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani on Saturday said that her ministry was considering framing new laws to regulate the online content including on social media and websites.
Speaking to News18’s conclave, Irani said, “Instead of calling it a troll monitor, one can say that agencies that want to be part of news, because news today is also very filled with views. It’s not devoid of views. And that’s the fine line that some journalists and media personalities now tend to cross. The ministry is now considering framing a code of conduct. I am hopeful that such a similar body will also emerge for the social media at least in the news and entertainment content.”
Explaining her rationale as to why the government needed to consider launching a system akin to the regulatory body for TV and newspapers, the minister said, “First when it comes to content, which is on television and for that matter radio or newspaper, there’s a code of conduct. There’s a code of broadcast of advertisement that everybody that’s constituted under the law or, for that matter licensed to function under the law, has to adhere to. But online is the ecosystem, where legislation in terms of news, legislation in terms of broadcast content materials is not very clear. That’s something the ministry is currently undertaking and in conversations with stakeholders. But let it be said that we can not ignore the capacity of fake news to defame and demean you.”
Irani was widely criticised for publicly admonishing the news agency, PTI, at least on two occasions after she assumed the ministry. It was widely viewed as the government’s intervention into the editorial independence of an autonomous news agency.
In July last, PTI had sacked a photographer after the agency put up a photo of a waterlogged Chennai airport, however, erroneously captioned it as the Sardar Patel International Airport.
Irani had struck again a month later and once again it was the news agency PTI, which had to face the brunt of her anger. he had taken to Twitter expressing her disgust on a tweet by PTI that Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar had urged the Centre to allocate funds to strengthen the subordinate judiciary.
The PTI’s tweet had said, “CM Nitish Kumar urges Centre to allocate funds liberally to strengthen subordinate judiciary in Bihar to provide speedy justice to litigants.”
The news agency used an image of four individuals who appeared to be wearing the masks of Modi and Kumar. Taking cognisance of the two leaders being mocked, Irani had tweeted, “is this how elected heads will be projected? Is this your official stand ?”
Within seconds of Irani’s tweet, PTI deleted its post before issuing clarification and apology that the four individuals in the photo were of JDU and BJP workers who had worn the masks of their respective leaders.