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Journalist Bodies Slam IT Rules Amendments, ‘Attack’ on Students Screening BBC Documentary

The NAJ and DUJ said
they were deeply distressed by the ‘increasing attacks on students and their unions’ for trying to screen the BBC documentary in various universities.
Image Courtesy: Newsclick

The NAJ and DUJ said they were deeply distressed by the ‘increasing attacks on students and their unions’ for trying to screen the BBC documentary in various universities. 

New Delhi: The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) in a joint statement on Saturday blasted the draft amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 and the use of emergency powers by the government to block any screening of or access to the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Regarding the draft amendments to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, DUJ President S.K.Pande, DUJ General Secretary Sujata Madhok, NAJ Secretary General N. Kondaiah and APWJF General Secretary G.Anjaneyulu stressed that the Press Information Bureau (PIB), cannot be turned into a “Police Information Bureau” to curb the media like it happened during the Emergency period. 

“PIB’s role should continue to be that of providing government news to the media. It cannot be tasked with monitoring and censoring the media and identifying as ‘fake news’ any information inconvenient to the government,” they said in the joint statement.

Noting that it was PIB’s responsibility to facilitate access of media persons to official information, the DUJ and NAJ said, “It is regrettable that the PIB, under the control of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, is today living up to its old reputation, under the British Raj, as a war time organisation intended to screen the news coming from various theatres of war, rather than a Press Information Bureau.”

The view of DUJ and NAJ was iterated by the Editors’ Guild of India earlier this month. Expressing concern over the freedom of the press, the Editors Guild of India had urged the government to expunge the draft amendment to the Information Technology Rules, which directs social media companies to take down news articles deemed “fake” by the PIB. 

The two journalists’ organisations also said that the recent amendment to the IT Rules gives PIB as well as all the Union government ministries and departments the powers to demand take down of any news on social media that they find objectionable. “This seems to be a move aimed at censoring the small, independent digital media,” NAJ and DUJ said.

Further, the journalists’ bodies said they were deeply distressed by “the increasing attacks on students and their unions for trying to relay the BBC documentary in various universities. This is part of a continuum of attacks on the rights and freedom of the press.”

The Centre last week directed blocking of multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary.

The two-part BBC documentary, which says it investigated into certain aspects relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of that state, has been dubbed by the Ministry of External Affairs as a "propaganda piece". 

In the latest in a series of attempts by students’ organisations across the country to screen the film, commotion erupted at Delhi University and Ambedkar University in the national capital on Friday as students tried to show the documentary; the police and the varsity administration intervened to scuttle the move, according to PTI.

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