The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are reportedly not with the Press Council of India on its move to have more power over the electronic and social media. “The INS, an apex body of newspaper publications across the country, is strongly opposed to the move initiated by the PCI for legislation to amend the Press Council Act, 1978 to bestow itself more power on the guise of bringing electronic media, both broadcast and social, within the purview of the PCI,” INS president Ashish Bagga said in a statement.

Going further, Bagga added that, “INS believes that the press in India is time-tested and self-regulated with enough maturity to continue to play the crucial role of the Fourth Estate of our vibrant democracy responsibly.” He went on to add that the move itself “appeared to have been single handedly spearheaded by the PCI Chairman for quite sometime now.”

Not allowed to share (Image credit: Getty Images)

INS, NBA oppose PCI's move (Image credit: Getty Images)

Importantly, Bagga noted that the print and electronic media are based on two entirely different formats and hence, require two separate set of guidelines. “INS strongly believe that these mediums cannot and should not co-exist under one particular dispensation,” he added further. 

Elaborating further, Bagga added in his statement that the Press Council of India was set up by Parliament as a statutory, quasi-judicial body to preserve the Freedom of the Press and maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country. “The mandate given to it in the present format is adequate enough to discharge its responsibilities expected of the Press Council of India,” he added. 

Reports towards the end of last month indicated that the Press Council of India (PCI) had decided to bring the electronic and social media under its ambit, as the efforts of the broadcast media to regulate itself had proven “futile”. It had also been reported that the PCI intends to convey to the government of India that it wishes to be renamed as The Media Council. Subsequent reports, however, rubbished the claims made in the earlier report, citing that no such decisions had been taken by the council.

Offering his views on the topic, Sachidananda Murthy, Resident Editor, Malayala Manorama and The Week, and a member of council, said in an emailed statement, “The Press Council is yet to take a final view, though the Chairman and some members feel that the Press Council should be converted to a Media Council. Other members are not enthusiastic about one omnibus body for all streams of media.”

Interestingly, PCI's move to regulate electronic and social media has received support from the President of the All India Small & Medium Newspapers Federation. In addition to that, he also sought for necessary amendments to the Press Council Act. 

The reports come in wake of the exodus of northeast Indians from various parts of the country. Reports had claimed that the exodus had been fuelled by morphed images and videos uploaded across websites and on the social media. The government has been at the task of deleting web pages containing content that was deemed offensive. At the moment, about 310 URLs carrying offensive content stand blocked by the government.

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