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Web-based digital media should be regulated, Centre tells SC


The Union government on Monday submitted to the Supreme Court that digital media such as news portals, magazines and channels running on video hosting platforms such as YouTube spread hatred in the society. The Centre also submitted that these digital media outlets also tarnish the image of individuals.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting suggested that web-based digital media should be regulated even before print and electronic media as it has a wider reach and impact. The ministry said web-based digital media is “completely uncontrolled”.

Plea against telecast of ‘UPSC Jihad’ show

The submission came in the form of an affidavit in the case concerning a private Hindi news channel that had aired the controversial UPSC Jihad show. The Supreme Court has already barred the channel from broadcasting the episodes of the programme, while lambasting the electronic media for openly spreading hate.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud had earlier asked the government to file an affidavit seeking its response on the need to regulate electronic media.

A petition was filed by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan, who claimed that the private news channel aired a program titled, ‘Bindas Bol’, with derogatory statements about Islam. The petitioner claimed that the channel through the programme equated the entry of Muslims in civil services to “infiltration and jihad.”

Print, electronic media already regulated: Centre

The Centre, while pointing out digital media units, in its affidavit said: “Apart from spreading venomous hatred, deliberate and intended instigation to not only cause violence but even terrorism, it is also capable of indulging in tarnishing the image of individuals and institutions.”

The ministry said print and electronic media are already regulated and have limitations in terms of the number of readers and viewers, whereas web-based digital media remained largely unregulated. Print and broadcast media is taken care of while granting a license, it added.

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“Any individual can start his own web-based channel by way of a ‘you tube channel’ and the only thing he needs is a desire to start and a smart phone which can be accessed by anyone irrespective of either literacy or having a TV set or DTH (direct-to-home)/cable operator services,” the government submitted before the Supreme Court.

The government also said while print and electronic media have to meet rigorous eligibility criteria and quality standards for registration, magazines, news portals and channels on web can start operations without taking prior permissions.

Replying to the court’s question on laying down necessary guidelines for the mainstream electronic and print media, the Centre said it is not required as of now. However, regulatory guidelines must be laid down for web-based digital media, it said.

Supreme Court questions debates on news channels

Justice KM Joseph, who is part of the bench hearing the matter, had in the previous hearing said that freedom granted to the media is not absolute. Additionally, he had remarked that the manner in which certain television channels conduct news debates today left a lot to be desired.

He asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to explore options on disclosing the shareholding pattern and revenue model of media houses in the public domain.

“Certain channels mute panelists when they express views which go against the anchor’s views. This is unfair. No freedom is absolute, not even journalistic freedom,” Justice Joseph had said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that the freedom of a journalist is supreme and any regulation of the same would need extensive debates.

The bench had acknowledged that regulation of media outlets is a very difficult proposition.


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