India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with the media in New Delhi, India on January 31, 2023. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

CPJ joins call for Indian government to withdraw latest amendment to Information Technology Rules

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, May 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists joined 16 press freedom and human rights organizations in a Tuesday statement calling on the Indian government to review and withdraw the overbroad provisions of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, and to withdraw the latest amendment to the rules, announced on April 6.

The amendment authorizes the formulation of a central government fact-check unit empowered to order intermediaries, including social media companies and internet service providers, to take down “fake or false or misleading content.” Intermediaries risk liability in court if they fail to remove such content.

The statement expresses concern that the amendment, which was announced without adequate and meaningful consultation with journalists, press bodies, and civil society organizations, severely threatens press freedom and empowers the government to be the sole arbiter of truth on the internet.

The statement further notes that the surveillance of journalists continues with impunity and calls on the Indian government to meaningfully commit to protecting media freedom and ensuring that journalists can do their work freely and without fear of persecution.

Read the full statement here.

CPJ previously criticized the I.T. Rules, which expanded the government’s powers to censor online content. In January 2023, the Indian government cited the rules when ordering YouTube and Twitter to take down links to a BBC documentary investigating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat.