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Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Digital media spread hatred, Centre tells SC

  • The government suggests that web-based digital media should be regulated
  • Calling it parallel media, the Centre says web portals use spectrum or radio airwaves and internet which are public property

Web-based digital media such as news portals, magazines and channels that run on video hosting platforms like Google Inc-owned YouTube not only spread hatred but can also tarnish the image of individuals, the government told the Supreme Court on Monday.

“Apart from spreading venomous hatred, deliberate and intended instigation to not only cause violence but even terrorism, it is also capable of indulging in tarnishing the image of individuals and institutions," the Centre said in an affidavit filed in the Sudarshan TV case.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had asked the government to file an affidavit seeking its response on the need to regulate electronic media. The court is hearing a petition filed by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan claiming Sudarshan TV’s programme Bindas Bol contained derogatory statements about Islam and equated Muslims joining the civil services to “infiltration and jihad".

The ministry of information and broadcasting suggested web-based digital media should be regulated even before considering rules for print and electronic media as it has a bigger reach and impact and is “completely uncontrolled".

Madhu Trehan, co-founder of Newslaundry, an independent news portal, challenged that view, saying, “It’s ironical that what should be controlled is not being addressed and what cannot and should not be controlled has been squeezed into this. We are seeing spin muddling and master propaganda."

Calling it parallel media, the Centre said web portals use spectrum or radio airwaves and internet which are public property.

“In a Parliamentary response last week on regulating streaming services, the ministry did not mention its efforts on self-regulation, and instead claimed such platforms were covered by the Information Act, 2000," said Salman Waris, founding partner at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors.

“The ministry’s silence could be an indication that it does not support the self-regulation code. The Centre via this affidavit has clearly expressed in the open about its desire, if not attempt, to regulate digital media," Waris added.

Lata Jha contributed to the story.

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