Non-profit, independent Indian news website challenges new content rules

news content rules
Image by PavelMuravev | Bigstockphoto

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian non-profit which runs an independent news website on Tuesday challenged in court the country’s new rules that seek to regulate content on digital news media.

The so-called Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code was announced by New Delhi last month and is legally enforceable.

It also regulates big social media firms such as Facebook and Twitter.

In its petition in the Delhi High Court, the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes ‘The Wire’ news portal, argued the rules formulated under India’s Information Technology Act cannot govern online news media.

“It goes far beyond anything which can be acceptable in a democracy,” Nitya Ramakrishnan, the Foundation’s lawyer said during a virtual court hearing.

The rules lay a three-tier regulatory structure for news media including an oversight mechanism by the federal government, sparking concerns that it will curb the freedom of press to report independently.

Whether news agencies and commentators on current affairs should be subjected to a Code of Ethics is not the question. The question is whether regulation and oversight by the Government or its agents can be prescribed by the Rules when not contemplated by the parent Act (though such an exercise even by Parliament would be open to serious challenge).

The case will next be heard on April 16.

The rules are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to regulate online content including on social media and streaming platforms such as Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix.

(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Michael Perry)

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