The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has urged the government to drop the draft amendment to the IT Rules that requires social media platforms to take down news or information declared fake by the Fact Checking Unit of the Press Information Bureau.
The INS also asked the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to initiate consultations with stakeholders to create a mechanism that would ensure factual accuracy of reports about government business on media sites and meet highest standards of fairness and due process.
It noted that, by definition, the role of the Press Information Bureau as the nodal agency of the government is to disseminate information about its programmes, initiatives and achievements.
Last week, the ministry had issued revised Draft Amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, that seeks to direct social media platforms to take down news or information identified as "fake" by the Fact Checking Unit of the Press Information Bureau.
The INS said the amendments would grant the responsibility of checking statements related to the central government to its own agency and imbue it with the power of the law.
"By legislating to become a judge in its own cause, the government, through a proposed amendment to a set of rules which have otherwise also caused concern, is taking a step to effectively muzzle criticism and even fair comment," it said.
Media bodies such as the Editors' Guild of India, the Press Association, DigiPub Foundation of India, News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) have already urged the government to "expunge" the amendment.