Law panel`s steps to tackle opinion polls, paid news

Amid an ongoing debate on freedom of media, the Law Commission has floated a consultation paper to help it recommend an approach to be adopted in tackling issues like opinion polls, paid news, media regulation and use of social media.

PTI| Last Updated: May 24, 2014, 15:55 PM IST

New Delhi: Amid an ongoing debate on freedom of media, the Law Commission has floated a consultation paper to help it recommend an approach to be adopted in tackling issues like opinion polls, paid news, media regulation and use of social media.

The law panel said though the country has every reason to celebrate its news media, as society evolves, new challenges are constantly thrown up that require consideration.

"Technology has expanded our horizons, but also brought with it new concerns. Recent events related to the news media, such as the proliferation and subsequent curbing of social media, the paid news phenomenon, fake sting operations, trial by media, breach of privacy pose a set of anxieties," it said.
Referring to social media and the use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, the paper said the ability to disseminate information seamlessly over social media has resulted in a rising need to regulate the content of such information.

Section 66A of the IT Act makes it a punishable offence to send messages that are offensive or false or created for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience.

"Since no guideline has been laid down for identification of offensive information, the wide amplitude of the provision has often been used for politically motivated arrests," it said.

On paid news, it pointed out that though guidelines are present both in print and broadcast media that call for clear demarcation of advertisement and news content, these are either subverted or ignored altogether.
Pointing to an individual`s privacy and "manipulated" sting operations, it said the exponential growth of media, particularly electronic media, has resulted in a corresponding decline in an individual`s privacy.

"Though the freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed in the Constitution of India, empower the press to disclose information vital to public interest, it often results in intrusion of privacy," it said.