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PIB Gets Policing Powers in Name of Fact-Checking: DUJ

The Delhi Union of Journalists said that the PIB will act as the new censor, which is a very dangerous situation reminiscent of the Emergency.

Representational use only.

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has strongly opposed the amendments made to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) rules, 2021,which provides a comprehensive framework for online gaming and also deals with fact-checking of online content about the government.

“The amendments, in fact, change the very nature and mandate of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) by giving it virtual policing powers,” the DUJ said in a press statement released by its president SKPande,general secretary Sujata Madhok and secretaries Jigeesh and Aroop Sen on Saturday.

According to the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), the amendments aim to “enforce greater due diligence by online gaming and social media intermediaries in respect of online games and fake or false misleading information related to government business”.

The DUJ, however, said that the PIB has been given “unbridled regulatory powers much beyond its mandate in the name of fact-checking of “fake or false or misleading” information about the government on social media platforms.

“The PIB will now act as the new censor, which is a very dangerous situation reminiscent of the Emergency but could be worse than that,” the DUJ added.  

“The mandate of the PIB is to act as an interface between the government and the media,” the statement read.

The role andfunctions of the PIB as listed on its website are “disseminating information on policies and programmes of the government of India; providing feedback on how these policies and programmes have been received; advising the government on its information, education and communication strategy; managing crisis communication and emergency response; and providing media facilitation and accreditation”, the DUJ said.

The DUJ, which considers these amendments “another attempt to curb free speech and freedom of expression”, demanded their immediate withdrawal

It called for wider consultations with all stakeholders on the menace of fake news, and a national alliance to fight such “ominous moves to curb freedom of expression and the right to dissent”.

The amended rules make it obligatory for the intermediaries not to publish, share or host fake, false or misleading information regarding any business of the Central government. These fake, false or misleading information will be identified by the Centre’s notified fact-check unit.

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