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Govt gearing up to gag news websites

  1. #1
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    Default Govt gearing up to gag news websites

    Govt gearing up to gag news websites

    Barely four months after dropping its proposal of forcing TV channels to show only an "authorized" feed during security emergencies,
    the government is now seeking to censor news portals and other websites, that too even at normal times.

    The controversial draft rules released this month empower a designated Central government officer to block public access to any information on the Net for wide-ranging reasons of security and national interest.

    One glaring infirmity in the draft rules prepared by the department of information technology
    is that they make no stipulation for a prior hearing to the affected website. This is despite the fact that the web host who does not comply with the direction to remove the offending information is liable to be punished with imprisonment up to seven years.

    While the abortive attempt to gag TV channels had been made through a draft notification amending the cable television network rules, the sweeping power to control the content on websites is being fleshed out in the rules drafted under the recent amendments to the information technology (IT) Act.

    Though it was passed by Parliament in December and the Presidential assent to it came in February, the IT amendment Act 2008 will not come into effect till the various rules drafted under its provisions, including the one on blocking public access to websites, are finalized.

    Under the draft rules framed under section 69A of the IT amendment Act, every state or Central government department will be empowered to decide whether a certain news item, article, blog or advertisement relating to its jurisdiction is safe to remain on the Net.

    Once somebody sends a "complaint" against any information displayed on the Net, the department concerned will take a call on whether the matter in question affects any of the six concerns mentioned in section 69A: interest of sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or incitement to commit any cognizable offence relating to the other five reasons.

    If it is satisfied about the need to pull the challenged information out of the public domain, the department concerned will send a "request" in the prescribed form to the "designated officer" at the Centre chosen by the secretary of the IT department. An inter-ministerial committee headed by the designated officer will recommend whether the request to censor the web site should be accepted or not.

    If the IT secretary approves the committee's recommendation to take action, the designated officer will direct the intermediary or web host to block the offending information within the stipulated time. In the event of non-compliance, the designated officer can initiate criminal proceedings under section 69A, which imposes a maximum sentence of seven years on the web host.

    The only remedy provided by the draft rules to media organizations is that a review committee will meet every two months to check whether the directions to block information have been issued in accordance with the IT Act. Though they empower the review committee to order the "unblocking" of the information concerned, the draft rules are strangely silent on whether the affected website would be allowed to appeal before it and give its defence.

    Source: Timesofindia
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  2. #2
    meetdilip
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    Right to express one's views is the basement for democracy. Any move to suppress this will cause undesired effect.

    I do not support media broadcasting information of sensitive nature like a commando operation. Even though media in India enjoy a certain level of autonomy, it is mostly owned by people who have specific views and links in politics.

    As new channels pop up, they keep looking for news and controversies to exist. We should definitely have some means to control it. Let us have it and use it in a liberal manner. But imprisonment should not be one of them. Banning is ok.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member panchabhut's Avatar
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    seems to be brain child of Beurocrats hit hard by the Right to Information Act

  4. #4
    18lama
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    This was always going to happen.

    Bhai ho phir bhi jai ho!

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