India’s New Media Rules Could Silence Online News Outlets

“Media freedom is absolute,” Prakash Javedkar, the minister of information and broadcasting, said. “But with responsible, reasonable restrictions.”

It is not clear whether India’s courts will preserve the rules. Critics argue that they are an overreach of current law and that many of their specifics are unclear. In a significant victory for them, a judge in the southern state of Kerala earlier this month barred the government from taking action against LiveLaw, an online portal that reports on courts, for noncompliance.

India’s small digital news outlets believe the law is aimed at silencing them. They fear they will be overwhelmed with complaints, leaving them vulnerable to trolls and concerted online campaigns. An online army of Modi supporters is often quick to pounce on critical content.

“It will be very easy to churn out hundreds of complaints on a daily basis,” said Ashutosh, who runs a YouTube news portal called Satya Hindi that gets about 300,000 viewers a day. “So organizations like ours, what will they do? If there are hundreds of complaints against us on a daily basis, our entire energy will be subsumed by that.”

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