HC seeks govt response on regulation of news agencies, portals
Srinagar: The High Court today directed the J&K union territory administration to file response in a public interest petition seeking regulation of news agencies and portals allegedly involved in “wholesale circulation of fake news”.
The PIL filed by J&K Peoples Forum through advocate Shafqat Nazir said that J&K has been experiencing a mushroom growth of news agencies and portals on the social media platforms and that they are rampantly involved in circulation of fake news.
“We call upon the respondents to file response specifically pointing out to provisions of law under which such news portals if at all are required to be registered or licensed, and if so, whether the above news portals are running with due permission in accordance with law, and whether any agency is examining the contents of the news circulated by these news portals,” directed a division bench comprising Chief Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar.
The bench directed the Principal Secretary Information Department, Divisional Commissioners of the Jammu and Kashmir provinces besides the Director Information to file their response within one month.
The petitioner nongovernmental organization said “several such news portals like Kashmir News, Kashmir Voice, Kashmir Breaking News, News Kashmir 24/7, Kashmir Business Hub and Bol Kashmir, etc., are operating freely in J&K without any registration or license from any authority and these news portals are not under supervision and control of any authority whatsoever.”
The petition reads that multiple news agencies, both on manual and digital mode, are functioning in the J&K Union Territory.
“The petitioner in exercise of his Right to Information sought certain details from Director Information (J&K) about the details of permissions granted for running the news agencies and in reply any permission having been granted to any person came to be denied; yet there are multiple news agencies whatsapp/facebook/YouTube news channels and other electronic news agencies operating in both the regions which are actively engaged in the transmission of various types of news bulletins and reports,” it said.
The petition said that every person with a hanging camera and a mike in hand poses himself/herself as a journalist irrespective of the fact whether he/she is authorized and permitted to work in that capacity.
“Such pseudo-journalists have not only tarnished the image of real journalists and degree holders but they also resort to blackmailing of government officers, contractors and politicians.
“Without any authority, they barge into private and public places alike and shamefully drag people out and humiliate them. From revealing the names of juvenile offenders/victims to publishing names of girls allegedly forced to work as sex workers, these pseudo journalists are doing it all,” it added.
The petitioner also said “a number of persons in the employment of the Union Territory and the Union government are actively working with media houses, news channels and have also joined social media news groups”.
The employees according to the petitioner are governed by a set of service/conduct rules and are supposed to obtain a proper prior permission from the competent authority or else to face disciplinary action.
It is surprising that in many cases these government employees working in the media houses are sometimes interviewing the bureaucrats and politicians on vital issues which violate the conduct rules, the petition said.
It said that these government employees and “fake journalists” have usurped the employment opportunities of the Mass Communication professionals in the Union Territory.
The petitioner also said that a host of newspapers in different languages are being published in violation of the periodicity prescribed by the competent authority under law.