We are law people passionate about media and communications issues and their impact on our civil and political rights. We intend to use this blog to engage in constructive conversation about issues that cut across the media.
We will cover both emergent and established media. Our posts will analyse and debate issues ranging from press censorship, Internet surveillance and media cross-ownership, to other significant media policy issues that are yet to be anticipated.
An indicative and non-exhaustive list of these issues follows:
Censorship has been a particularly sensitive issue in India in the wake of the 1975 Emergency, and remains a contentious issue in most countries with a democratic milieu. We will analyse the laws and other measures controlling (and in some cases criminalizing) content across all media, whether directly or indirectly, and track specific instances of censorship.
2. Privacy, Surveillance & Data Protection
India’s privacy protections are ambiguous and rudimentary at present. This is exacerbated by the dearth of publicly-available information about state surveillance policies. There are few visible legal and procedural safeguards governing intelligence agencies as they engage in interception and monitoring of communications. Additionally, the law regulating such activity is available only in patches, as are legal principles governing databases.
This section will map the rise of the surveillance state and the market in information, and untangle the consequences for the ordinary citizen.
We are interested in access to information as a right, both in the context of our democratic political system, and for its own sake. This access presents challenges at multiple levels in India, owing to the country’s socio-economic diversity . We hope to contribute the discourse around this agenda of broadening access.
This section will track attempts at broadening access to information for Indian citizens, with particular reference to communication technologies, whether broadcast, telecommunications or broadband.
4. Due Process, Transparency & Accountability
Democratic states must be transparent and accountable states – citizens in democracies have a right to information, to notification of interference with their rights, and to remedies where the state has unlawfully interfered their rights. The beginnings of this transparency and accountability can be seen in the Indian freedom of information law which has challenged the historic opacity in the Indian state, typified by the infamous Official Secrets Act, 1923.
Although it created the right to information, the 2005 legislation is only the first step towards real transparency. There have been significant impediments in its implementation, and freedom of information continues to merit discussion on a regular basis.
This section will discuss the right to information, particularly in the context of transparency and accountability. In addition, it will discuss questions of proactive transparency and openness, and contentious subjects like the reconciliation of the right to privacy and the right to information.
5. Institutional Frameworks & Non-Institutional Pressures for Media Regulation
Separate regulatory bodies govern different parts of our communication infrastructure, depending on whether it is connected with the press, broadcasting, the Internet or telecommunication. The regulatory structure for each sector is quite different from the others, and co-ordination across sectors is proving to be a struggle.
Comparable entities around the world, and their treatment of regulation across different sectors and structuring of regulatory bodies offer much fodder for discussion. India’s relationship with global Internet and telecommunications regulatory bodies is also well worth tracking and analysing, given its implications for our citizens’ rights in the future.
This section will discuss the different models by which communications media are, can and should be governed. It will track developments of national and supra-national regulatory models for the media.
6. National Security, Law and Order & Civil Liberties
Terrorism has such an intimate relationship with communication that the lines of communication are inevitably monitored and threatened when seen to exacerbate security threats. The manner in which rights of the powerless and marginalised are treated in exceptional circumstances such as against the backdrop of terrorism, threats to national security (physical and virtual) or communal or ethnic volatility, is in many ways the measure of the success of democratic values.
This section will address how these exceptions are fashioned and applied, particularly in the context of speech rights and communications privacy.
7. The Invisible Hand
The rise of corporate control over communication infrastructure has meant that the capacity to give and receive information is affected by business models. We are therefore interested in this aspect of mass communication, and the regulation of the information markets.
This section will examine how antitrust law addresses dominance and vertical integration issues, how states regulate corporate sponsorship when it drives media platforms (news, social networking and search, for instance) and how the public interest expectations of the press are reconciled with their revenue-driven interests. It will map news and legal developments around the commerce of media corporations.
8. Internet Governance
This section will address a range of issues: intermediaries, digital copyright, privacy and publicity on social networks, network cultures and the consent of the networked, normative questions about whether and how far states should regulate the Internet and the difficulties in implementing fundamental rights in the virtual plane.
Thanks to Neelesh Saran for the banner design!