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"Govt does not interfere with press freedom": Anurag Thakur tells Parliament

New Delhi: In pursuance of its policy to uphold the freedom of the Press, the government does not interfere in the functioning of the Press, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur told Parliament on Thursday. Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory autonomous body, has been set up under the Press Council Act, 1978 mainly to preserve the freedom of the Press and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country, Thakur said in a written response to a question asked by Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai. Desai, a Shiv Sena (UBT ) MP had sought a response from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry if there was any restriction on the use or misuse of freedom of expression in the media. In his detailed reply, Thakur stated that freedom of speech and expression is a constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Right to citizens under Article 19(1) with restrictions as stated in Article 19(2). Under Article 19(2), the State is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions on the operation of the Right in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.As far as the media is concerned in respect to this fundamental right, the Minister further said, "PCI considers complaints filed by the Press concerning curtailment of press freedom, physical assault/attack on journalists etc. under Section 13 of the Press Council Act 1978 and processed under the provisions of Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979. PCI is also empowered to take suo-motu cognizance in matters on the pressing issues concerning freedom of Press and safeguarding of its high standards." Thakur said that guidelines are also in place for both TV as well as Digital media. For Television, he stated all TV Channels are required to adhere to the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, including that programmes should not contain anything obscene defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths. For digital news publishers, the Minister said the government has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 under the IT Act, 2000 on February 25, 2021, which inter alia provides for a Code of Ethics for adherence by digital news publishers. Appropriate action is taken by the Government and the Press Council in case of violation of the Codes etc, Thakur added in his reply.

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