New Delhi: Reacting strongly to the Narendra Modi government’s move to control digital media, the polit bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Thursday said it was opposed to control of the digital media by a government department.
The CPI(M) believes that the existing laws and IT Act are adequate for the purpose of a healthy digital media, the party said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the Modi government issued a notification saying that all digital and online media platforms and online content providers would be brought within the ambit of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. These also include OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar etc, as also a host of alternative news websites, including Scroll.in, NewsMinute, The Wire, Quint, Newsclick among others.
All these platforms were under the Ministry of Information and Electronic Technology earlier, and subject to various provisions under the IT Act to deal with digital platforms and intermediaries.
The CPIM), with specific reference to news websites, decried the government’s move to “muzzle” independent and critical journalism.
“This notification is a clear expression of intent that the Central Government is now moving to “regulate” digital media content. Having muzzled the print and electronic/visual media to a considerable extent, it is moving to control digital media,” read the statement, adding that the party was “opposed to control of the digital media by a government department, as it believes that the existing laws and IT Act are adequate for the purpose of a healthy digital media.”
The move has also been criticised by various individuals and internet freedom voices who fear a rise in censorship of content by the government, as the corporate-controlled mainstream media in India is largely seen as “pro-government” and subject to corporate and government pressure.
Digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa told The Guardian, that “The fear is that with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting – essentially India’s Ministry of Truth – now in a position to regulate online news and entertainment, we will see a greater exercise of government control, and censorship.”