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The consultation paper, which was released in May, covers a wide range of issues including paid news, opinion polls, social media, ownership of media, trial by media and decriminalizing defamation. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
The consultation paper, which was released in May, covers a wide range of issues including paid news, opinion polls, social media, ownership of media, trial by media and decriminalizing defamation. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Consultation on media laws paper extended

The paper notes that media regulation in India is not unified and that the country has multiple regulatory bodies for the sector

New Delhi: The Law Commission of India has extended the last date for feedback on its media laws consultation paper to 15 August, an official at the commission said on condition of anonymity. The consultation paper, which was released in May, covers a wide range of issues including paid news, opinion polls, social media, ownership of media, trial by media and decriminalizing defamation.

The paper notes that media regulation in India is not unified and that the country has multiple regulatory bodies for the sector. It seeks feedback from industry stakeholders on whether self-regulation by media was sufficient or if statutory regulators were required.

It goes on to discuss if paid news, which the Press Council of India defines as “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print and electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration", should be made an electoral offence if such news is published or broadcast during elections.

On opinion polls, the paper highlights the need for balance between the constitutional right of freedom of expression and the risk that such surveys may promote public biases.

The law commission paper also questions whether defamation ought to be a criminal offence and whether there should be separate laws for journalists in this regard.

On trial by media, the paper states that sensationalized news puts undue pressure on lawyers and the judiciary and takes away from a fair trial that is promised to an accused.

The paper also touches on the issue of regulation of social media, especially Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that seeks to punish people who send offensive information through a “computer resource or a communication device". Apar Gupta, a lawyer working in media law, called the paper an “excellently timed, broad and comprehensive exercise which is needed urgently because of converging media". He explained that converging media means that it didn’t make sense for a newspaper with an online presence to be regulated under two different laws. “This paper addresses two important concerns in this area, absence of legislation and examining existing legislations while addressing civil liberties."

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