The News Broadcasters Association on Thursday said that it has filed a plea in the Kerala High Court challenging the Centre’s new Information Technology rules, PTI reported.
In a statement, the journalists’ body said that the new rules are ultra vires to the Information Technology Act, 2000, and violate Article 14 (Right to Equality) and 19(1)(g) (right to freedom to practice any profession) of the Constitution.
The plea stated that the grievance redressal mechanism as mandated by the new rules have a “chilling effect” on the content of the media. It said that by creating such a structure, the executive has “made inroads into judicial power and vested itself with powers reserved exclusively for the judiciary”.
The new rules – which were announced in February and became effective in May – are framed to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
In its plea, the News Broadcasters Association said that it sought to challenge Part III of the new rules, which the journalists’ body said, “create an oversight mechanism giving the executive unfettered, unbridled and excessive powers to regulate content of digital news media”.
Part III of the rules, titled ‘Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards in relation to Digital Media’, brings publishers of news and current affairs content on online platforms under the government’s ambit.
This came a day after news agency PTI challenged the rules in the Delhi High Court. PTI argued before the court that the rules would “usher in an era of surveillance and fear, thereby resulting in self-censorship, which results in abridgment/ violation of Fundamental Rights as enshrined under Part III of the Constitution of India”.
On Wednesday, the High Court had refused to provide interim protection from coercive action to digital media organisations The Wire, The Quint and AltNews in connection with their pleas against the new rules. Media outlets have argued that the rules will allow the government to directly control their content.
The High Courts of Bombay, Madras and Kerala have also been hearing petitions challenging the digital media rules. On Tuesday, the Centre urged the Supreme Court to transfer those petitions to itself.