A Candle in the Dark

A look on science, politics, religion and events

Doubleplusungood draft of IT amendment act

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From the TOI,

Govt gearing up to gag news websites

Under the draft rules framed under section 69A of the IT amendment Act, every state or Central government department will be empowered to decide whether a certain news item, article, blog or advertisement relating to its jurisdiction is safe to remain on the Net.

Once somebody sends a “complaint” against any information displayed on the Net, the department concerned will take a call on whether the matter in question affects any of the six concerns mentioned in section 69A: interest of sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or incitement to commit any cognizable offence relating to the other five reasons.

If it is satisfied about the need to pull the challenged information out of the public domain, the department concerned will send a “request” in the prescribed form to the “designated officer” at the Centre chosen by the secretary of the IT department. An inter-ministerial committee headed by the designated officer will recommend whether the request to censor the web site should be accepted or not.

If the IT secretary approves the committee’s recommendation to take action, the designated officer will direct the intermediary or web host to block the offending information within the stipulated time. In the event of non-compliance, the designated officer can initiate criminal proceedings under section 69A, which imposes a maximum sentence of seven years on the web host.

(emphasis mine)

Scary stuff. Censorship laws are very rarely a good thing and it’s ridiculously easy to picture situations where this act can be used by the Goverment to censor unfavorable articles, criticism of government policy, perceived insults to a particular community/religion or even suppression of information. I’ve said it before, but the freedom to state one’s opinions without fear of reprimand is one of the hallmarks of a functioning democracy, and one of the most important rights of a citizen.

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Written by parseval

May 22, 2009 at 5:31 am

Posted in internet, journalism, politics

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