As from February 2021, India, now “described as a “flawed democracy”, slipped two places to 53rd position in the latest Democracy Index published by The Economist Intelligence Unit”. One reason for India’s democratic decline is the imposition of new media rules that empower India to censor online news. Aliya Iftikhar/CPJ Senior Asia Researcher had this information in the Committee to Protect Journalists. Here is an excerpt:
Digital news sites in India are on edge and expecting the worst after the government promulgated news rules in February, bringing them under regulation and further endangering the environment for press freedom in the country. The rules, in essence, give the government powers to censor website content, with little chance for appeal. In interviews with CPJ, Indian journalists and experts say the rules are an attempt to clamp down on one of the few remaining platforms for critical journalism and commentary – even as traditional print and broadcast media are increasingly cowed by pressure, which CPJ has documented, from the Modi administration.
“The government definitely sees digital media as a sort of irritant,” Dhanya Rajendran, editor of Bangalore-based news websiteThe News Minute, which focuses on five Southern Indian states, told CPJ in a phone interview, saying that online-only outlets had “stayed most truthful to the cause of journalism.”
“Which is perhaps why the government now thinks something has to be done to bring digital media sites under control,” she added.
The Frontier Manipur, a news website, received the first notice under the new rules from a local magistrate, warning them to comply after the outlet devoted its streamed weekly talk show to a discussion on the challenges digital news media are facing in India, editor Paojel Chaoba told CPJ in a phone interview. The notice was withdrawn after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting clarified that it would be the only agency to administer the rules, according to Chaoba. But the incident demonstrates how they could be used as a repressive mechanism, he said.
The full article can be accessed here.