A 'Certifiable' Dampener: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wants certification of online viewing content.

In a press release by the Press Information Bureau on August 31, 2019, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) invited suggestions for the certification of online viewing content (yes, this means Netflix, Amazon Prime and many others). This is an issue that has been a part of self-censorship code discussions and even court litigations which have been dismissed owing to the positive stance taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the matter.

Therefore, in light of this invitation put out by the MIB, we have written a representation with a few suggestions and concerns on establishing methods of certification of online video content:

  1. Open consultation: With no formal communication of a consultation, we have requested the Ministry that any consultation to take place, be conducted with transparency and open to public feedback.
  2. Concerns on the case being sub-judice: The issue had been previously disposed off by the Delhi High Court in the W.P. (C) 1164/2018; the reasoning used by the Court has also been basis of dismissal in other cases (W.P. (C) No. 7123/2018). As we mentioned in our previous post, the Delhi High Court had re-iterated the adequacy of the Information Technology Act, 2000 especially in light of the affidavits filed by both the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. We also mentioned how any change in policy as per the introduction of certification might impact the pre-existing stand of government departments in an active litigation.
  3. Censorship and effect on Freedom of Speech: We have expressed the harmful effect on the freedom of speech and expression, innovation and user choice and also referenced our concerns submitted earlier on the 'Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers' by the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

Our continuing concerns are on the resulting large-scale censorship that will ensue. This will impact curator and user freedoms creating a similar practice to the current film and television broadcast industry. It is the diversity, creativity and artistry portrayed through the online viewing platforms that a growing number of Indians prefer the this booming medium of choice.

We continue to suggest that the existing concerns that imply censorship through certification as a solution can be adequately addressed by market based mechanisms and existing penal provisions which are in any instance harsh and contemplate long jail terms on conviction. As always, IFF will continue to advocate for the Freedom of Speech and the facility to create artistic and innovative content for curators and also the ability to enjoy the same by enthusiatic users.

  • Representation to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (link)

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