Government has decided to bring online news and current affairs portal as well as films and audio-visual programmers available by online content provider under the regulation of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
This regulation of online content is considered as an attack on free press, unconstitutional and autocratic. It curtails freedom of speech and expression.
Relevant provisions concerned—
Article 19—Freedom of speech and expression.
Attack on freedom of press. People will not be able to express their opinion without being regulated.
The fear is that this will just end up facilitating more governmental interference and censorship, especially problematic when it comes to regulating digital news.
It is clubbing the sector of media which has pre-censorship (films) with the media which has not been subject to pre censorship (news).
It seeks to divide and rule the press by creating an artificial distinction between the new-age digital media (the stand-alone news portals which are already struggling to stay afloat) — which is the media of the future, the media of the millennial generation — and the older print and TV news media.
Self-regulation is must and absolutely necessary but a censorship by government can create a problem in freedom of speech.
It will be drawback for media practitioner, media entrepreneur as well as startups that have been the new vibrant face of combative journalism.
Relevant case law—
Romesh Thaper vs State of Madras –
Freedom of the press was an essential part of the right to freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech and expression included propagation of ideas, and that freedom was ensured by the freedom of circulation.
Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India – Supreme Court held—
In today’s free world freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse.
The purpose of the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate [Government] cannot make responsible judgments.
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