IFF revels over two thousand news publishers furnish their details to the MIB

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has found that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued notices to digital news publishers despite interim orders by the Madras and Bombay High Courts staying the operation of the three-tier grievance redressal mechanism and the Code of Ethics.

The MIB had requested information from digital news publishers in accordance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. (IT Rules). The ministry also stated that over 2,100 publishers, including news and OTT platforms, had already provided information.

Publishers of news and current affairs content, as well as online curated content, are required to inform the MIB about their entities and provide information under Rule 18 of the IT Rules 2021. This Rule is in accordance with the IT Rules' three-tier structure and the IT Rules' Code of Ethics. The Bombay High Court (in Agij Promotion Of Nineteenonea Media Pvt. Ltd. & Ors v. Union Of India & Anr - order dated 14th August 2021) and the Madras High Court (in T.M. Krishna v Union of India - order dated 16th September 2021) have, however, stayed the operation of this three-tier structure and the Code of Ethics.

The IFF noted, "Despite this, we were informed by digital news media publishers that the MIB has issued them notices to furnish information regarding themselves to the MIB. We filed an RTI application on 03.01.2022 to confirm whether this was the case, to understand the authority under which these notices were issued, and to which publishers."

MIB’s response to IFF contained some positive information:

1. The MIB admitted that it did indeed issue such notices - on 26.05.2021, and again on 09.09.2021. This is a surprising revelation, since the second notice dated 09.09.2021 was issued after the Bombay High Court’s stay on certain rules of the IT Rules 2021, which conferred authority on the MIB to regulate digital news media.
2. The MIB also revealed that more than 2100 publishers (of news media, as well as OTT platforms) have already furnished their details to the MIB. However, when asked how many of these publishers furnished their details after 14.08.2021, the MIB refused to provide the data stating that this information does not exist at all.


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