Digital media involved in spreading 'venomous hatred', should be regulated first: Centre tells Supreme Court
New Delhi/IBNS: Web-based digital media such as news portals, magazines and channels running on video hosting platforms like YouTube is spreading venomous hatred and not only carries out "deliberate instigation" of violence and terrorism but also tarnishes the image of individuals and institutions, the government told the Supreme Court on Monday, adding that the court should regulate web-based media first, media reports said.
“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 said practice is, in fact, rampant," the Centre said in an affidavit filed in the Sudarshan TV case, reported media.
The government urged the court to regulate web-based media first while suggesting that it should leave the parliament to decide on rules for electronic media.
A three-judge bench of Supreme Court headed by Justice DY Chandrachud had sought a reply from the government on the need to regulate electronic media, following a petition by one advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan, who claimed that a program titled ‘Bindas Bol’ on Sudarshan TV made derogatory statements on Islam and drew a parallel between the entry of Muslims in civil services and “infiltration and jihad."
The ministry told the court that the web magazines and channels ran on video hosting platforms such as YouTube, which has much wider reach with "lakhs and crores" of subscribers.
"But if Supreme Court wants to lay down guidelines, then include web magazines, web-based news channels and web-based newspapers as they have wide reach and it completely uncontrolled," the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in the affidavit, pointing out that portals.
The digital media uses spectrum or radio airwaves and the internet, which are public property while the electronic media use the spectrum to relay news on their platforms and channels, the ministry said.
It pointed out that the print and electronic media are already well-regulated and have limited viewers and readers whereas web-based digital media is largely unregulated.
Since print and broadcast media have to acquire a license before going operational, they have to meet rigorous eligibility criteria and quality standards for registration, while magazines, news portals, and channels on web can go live without seeking prior permission, the ministry said.
“Any individual can start his own web-based channel by way of a ‘you tube channel’ and the only thing he needs is a desire to start and a smart phone which can be accused by anyone irrespective of either literacy or having a TV set or DTH (direct-to-home)/cable operator services," the government told the apex court.
Replying to the court's question on regulatory guidelines for the mainstream electronic and print media, the ministry said it isn't required at the moment, but rules to regulate the web-based media must be laid down.