Some Indian media on Monday welcomed a court order suspending some of the new rules to regulate content on digital news websites, calling the move important for press freedom in India.
Bombay’s Supreme Court has suspended implementation of rules requiring digital news media to adhere to the code of conduct established by the Press Council of India, a self-regulatory press watchdog, and the country’s cable television code.
The court ruled at the request of a news website and a journalist.
It also shelved a three-tier regulatory structure for digital news media, including a federal government oversight mechanism, a rule that raised concerns it would curb the ability of news outlets to report independently and was seen by many as part of government efforts to to keep the media in check.
The wide scope of the 2021 rules “has a chilling effect” on the freedom of expression and expression of the media, the court said, adding that the rules also fall outside the scope of India’s Information Technology Act.
“The Bombay Supreme Court order that remains the most unpleasant part of the government’s new IT rules, as they apply to digital news media, is a shot in the arm for press freedom,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, the founder of the independent news website The Wire.
“The government tried to squeeze digital news into an official straitjacket, but the court rightfully stopped this process.”
A final hearing in the case is scheduled for September 27.
India outlined its new content regulations – Intermediate Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code – in February and the rules, which the government said are legally enforceable, came into effect at the end of May.
The rules — largely aimed at regulating major social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, and overseeing digital news media — have led to a range of legal challenges, including from news organizations.
The nonprofit, which runs The Wire, has also challenged the new rules in the Delhi High Court and the case will be heard later this month.
© Thomson Reuters 2021