Fake news, harassment and layoffs plague Indian news media: report

Legacy newspapers have felt the major burden of the lockdown, with many prominent media channels slashing wages, cutting jobs and shutting down publishers across the country, according to a report.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 said India’s media industry has been hit hard by the economic decline that has accompanied the world’s toughest lockdowns. The industry’s revenue models, government and commercial advertising, have fallen by more than half since the start of the pandemic, according to the report.

The digital report collaborated with the Asian School of Journalism and featured India for the first time.

In the survey, it was found that trust in information has increased worldwide, with 44% of those sampled stating that they trust information most of the time.

In India, traditional print media and government broadcasters like DD News (Doordarshan) and All India Radio are gaining more trust among news consumers. According to the survey, 38% of Indian news consumers trust the news overall.

The report analyzed the behavior of information consumers in India and found that 73% of respondents use smartphones to access information, while 82% of respondents access information online and 63% of respondents access information. information from various social media platforms.

The survey shows that WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook are the preferred social media platforms for accessing information, despite the misinformation and hate speech issues associated with these platforms.

The report highlights the systematic dissemination of false information by some members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Individual members of the ruling BJP and groups aligned with the party are believed to systematically disseminate false and misleading information through social media and other platforms,” the report said.

Facebook India’s political chief resigned last year after accusations the company deliberately took a lenient line on ruling party supporters who violated hate speech rules with messages anti-Muslims.

In May 2021, Indian police attended Twitter’s office to serve them with a notice, after the social media giant branded a tweet from a ruling party member as “manipulated media.”

Twitter had flagged some tweets as “manipulated media,” including one from Sambit Patra, the national spokesperson for the BJP.

Following this, Twitter issued a press release expressing concern for its staff in India. The Indian government had argued that Twitter should uphold the law of the land.

The report talks about the new “controversial” proposals that cover social media platforms, news sites and Over the Top (OTT) platforms.

As part of the new reforms, the government expects platforms, based on a court order or competent authorities, to trace the origin of any information published on their platform that may be misleading or false.

According to the new laws, an entity will have a three-level structure; the first will be self-regulation by the platform which will appoint a grievance officer based in India.

The second would be self-regulation by a body of self-regulatory entities and the third and final step would be the “central government control mechanism”.

Over time, the report points out that authorities have asked platforms to block or remove messages from “opposition activists, journalists and politicians.”

Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) raised concerns about the new IT rules and said they did not comply with internationally accepted standards for the right to privacy and freedom of opinion.

In a statement, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) clarified that the new IT rules aim to strengthen the rights of a social media user and do not infringe the right to privacy. or to the word.

The report quotes DigiPub, a group of digital news organizations, as saying the rules go against “fundamentals of information” and would give more control to the government.

Despite the growing popularity of digital media, the report shows that television is the most popular source of information for Indians in general.

Regarding the nature of television media, the report adds that “the culture of 24/7 news channels that operate on ‘breaking news’ models and organize polarized debates often distorts and sensationalizes news. . “

The report highlighted last year’s TV Rating Point (TRP) controversy involving Republic TV and two Marathi entertainment channels when they were accused of tampering with measuring devices to increase their ratings by Mumbai Police.

Despite this controversy, the report revealed that the popularity of Republic TV’s online and offline platforms has increased. The report mentions that this “perhaps indicates the growing popularity of right-wing ideology being propagated by the ruling party in India.”

India has slipped in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom rankings in recent years. This year India was 142nd out of 180 countries.

RSF report 2021 notes journalists in India face increasing violence, trolling and threats of rape and death on social media, as well as overuse of sedition laws to criticize the government or its policies.

A 2020 report published by freelance journalist Geeta Seshu for the Free Speech Collective noted that over the past ten years 154 journalists have been arrested, detained or questioned. Forty percent of these cases were reported in 2020.

Read the full report: here

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