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New IT Rules for digital, social media platforms come into effect today; traditional media houses hope for exemption

After meeting Prakash Javadekar in March, the DNPA hopes they won’t have to set up a grievance redressal mechanism as they’re already covered under National Broadcasting Standards Authority or Press Council of India guidelines. The new rules that are aimed to increase compliance for digital news and social media platforms come into effect from Tuesday

Prakash Javadekar

The Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) is hopeful of being exempted from the stringent IT rules notified by the Union government for digital and social media platforms.

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According to the newly notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, which will come into effect on Tuesday, digital news publishers will have to establish a grievance redressal mechanism and appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer.

The DNPA is an organisation set up by traditional news publishers with television channels or newspapers, which produce the same content online as well. Dainik Bhaskar, India Today, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Times of India, ABP, Eenadu, Dainik Jagran, and Lokmat are some of the members of DNPA. 

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Pawan Agarwal

DNPA Chairman, Pawan Agarwal, said they have written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, asking them to exempt traditional media from the rules. “All the members of the DNPA are waiting for their response. We have also followed up with them. The traditional media already has rules governing them. The minister heard us. So we have not established the grievance redressal mechanism yet,” said Agarwal, who is also the Deputy Managing Director of DB Corp Ltd. 

During a meeting with Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, they pointed out that the traditional media content is already under the purview of the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) or in the case of print organisations, under the Press Council of India (PCI).

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Meanwhile, members of Digipub News India Foundation have uploaded a grievance redressal form on their website and as per the guidelines, have also provided contact details of its Grievance Redressal Officer. The body representing digital-only news publishers has circulated the same form among all its members. 

Dhanya Rajendran

Dhanya Rajendran, Chairperson of Digipub, said, “We created the form and gave it to all our members within 30 days of it being notified. It is up to them whether they wanted to carry it or not.”

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Rajendran, also the Editor-in-Chief of The News Minute (TNM), along with The Wire's Founding Editor MK Venu and the Foundation of Independent Journalism, approached the Delhi High Court, saying these rules are illegal and unconstitutional. However, TNM has also shared the grievance redressal form on their website. “It is a gazetted notification. So we have to follow the spirit of the law,” she said. 

Rajendran said ever since they have uploaded the form, they have not received many complaints and so far, it has not had much of an impact. “We have had to designate a grievance redressal officer and ensure that we respond to them. Other than that, we have not had any major impact. But our contention is that these guidelines are unconstitutional,” she said. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the editor of a digital news platform, said, “We have received only one grievance so far and that wasn't really a grievance. It was something he could have conveyed through a letter to the editor but he found the grievance form and made it somewhat quasi-legal. This grievance redressal mechanism is an expense for everybody because you have to hire a grievance officer to respond to messages. It’s a lot of time and money.”

On February 25, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting notified the IT Rules, 2021, bringing in a three-tier grievance redressal framework for digital news publishers, social media intermediaries, and OTT platforms, and gave them three months to implement them. 

However, according to a recent  NDTV report, social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are also yet to act on the guidelines. 

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