Do online news portals, agencies need license: HC to Govt

Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has asked the government whether online news portals and agencies on social media are required to registered and licensed.

In case of affirmative, a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar asked the government to infirm if due permission in accordance with law has been granted to them.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, alleging mushroom growth of portals and news agencies on social media in Jammu and Kashmir, the division bench also asked government to inform whether any agency is examining the contents of the news circulated by these news portals.

“Apart from other things, the grievance raised in this Public Interest Litigation is about the mushrooming growth of news agencies on social media especially the news portals which are involved in circulating fake news,” the Bench said.

The PIL petitioner alleged that there are several such news portals which are operating freely without any registration or license from any authority and that these news portals are not under supervision and control of any authority whatsoever.

“In the light of the aforesaid averments, we call upon the respondents (officials) to file response specifically pointing out to provisions of law under 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,” the court said and asked the government to file the response within a month.

The petitioner said that there are multiple news agencies and whatsapp,  facebook and YouTube news channels and other electronic news agencies in both Jammu and Kashmir regions which are actively engaged in the transmission of various types of news bulletins and reports.

“It is also known fact that every person with a hanging camera and holding a mic poses himself as a journalist irrespective of the fact whether s/he is authorized and permitted to work as journalist and whether s/he has the requisite qualification,” the petitioner said as per GNS, adding, “In absence of any permission having been granted by the competent authority for running a news portal it is sufficient to infer that there is no proper, legal and regulatory mechanism in place at present with the result a state of confusion prevails on the subject as to the genuineness of any news transmitted by such channels/ portals.”

He said real professional journalists from major newspapers, news channels and news agencies follow a strict code of ethics but “fake journalist continue to harass officials to create viral videos and sensational news stories”.

The petitioner has sought directions to the officials to designate a regulatory authority for grant of permissions to the social media news channels, networks, pages portals.

He has also sought direction to the officials not to allow any social media news network, agency, page or portal to function without proper license and permission. (GNS)

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