New Delhi: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology blocked 25,368 URLs – including of web pages, websites, pages on social media – between 2014 and 2021.
It also issued directions to block 56 YouTube-based news channels and their social media accounts from public access during 2021-22.
All this was done citing violation of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000, the Union government said in reply to a question in Lok Sabha.
In his query, Congress MP from Thrissur, T.N. Prathapan, had asked, “…[W]hether the Government has the data and the details of governmental interruptions that news channels faced since 2014 and if so, the details thereof.”
He had also asked for the number of news channels, newspapers, media platforms, online media websites and social media accounts that were banned, stopped, interrupted for publishing or broadcasting by the Government since 2014.
In his response to the query, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur presented a statement in the House which said, “The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY) is empowered to issue directions for blocking of content for violation of Section 69 A of Information Technology Act, 2000. The number of URLs, consisting of web pages, websites, pages on social media accounts, etc., blocked by MeiTY under these provisions during the period 2014-2021 is 25,368.”
He added that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 notified under the Information Technology Act, 2000 on February 25, 2021, also provide for blocking of content of digital news publishers of the nature referred to in Section 69 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
As such, he said, “The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued directions for blocking of 56 YouTube based news channels and their social media accounts for public access during 2021-2022.”
The new IT Rules have been challenged by several news outlets in various high courts across India.
To another query from Prathapan on “…[W]hether the Government has conveyed the detailed explanation of why MediaOne was not allowed to continue their broadcasting”, the minister’s statement said, “the government has followed the due process of law and the laid down procedure before taking a decision regarding cancellation of permission to TV news channel ‘Media One’. The matter is sub-judice before the Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court recently stayed the Union government’s January 31 order banning the telecast of Malayalam news channel MediaOne under unspecified “national security concerns” until further orders. Justice Chandrachud said that he is averse to “sealed cover jurisprudence”.