1) Who is an online journalist?
Journalists are people who gather information that is relevant to the public and communicate this over various media. An online journalist would collect, write or edit news-reports, articles, features, interviews, opinion pieces, photographs or even podcasts and videos on news and events on an online platform.
2) Which laws would apply to online journalists?
If you are located and work from India, all the laws applicable to citizens of India will also apply to you. These include the Constitution of India, Press Laws and Acts, provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedures Code, Broadcasting regulations etc. The Press Council of India has a comprehensive list of acts applicable for journalists.
Besides, the amended Information Technology Act, 2000, governs all electronic communication. So, if a print, television, radio or mobile media journalist transmitted any information electronically, the provisions of the IT Act would also be applicable.
3) What is the legal status of an article in a newspaper that is also used online by the same media house?
Print media content is governed by a number of laws, including the Constitution of India’s provisions on freedom of expression and privacy, other specific laws on registration of publications, provisions in the Indian Penal Code, etc. An online article will attract different provision of the Information Technology Act, along with all the other laws.
4) If I am a print journalist and my report appears online in my media company’s website, will the Information Technology Act apply to me?
Yes, it will.
5) What is the legal status of online news media in India? Is there a registration process for news websites in India?
Unlike print publications, online news sites or portals do not have to be registered in India. All you need is a domain name registration.
6) Does a news-website come under the existing press laws of the land?
Only some press laws will apply to a news website in India. Online media does not come under the purview of the Press Council of India, the Working Journalists Act, The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, The Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956 and the Delivery of Books and Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act, 1954.However, since the amended Information Technology Act, 2000, governs all electronic communication, a news website will come under its purview.
7) Who is legally responsible for a report on a news-website – the reporter or the web editor?
Reporters and web editors are legally responsible for content on a site. Under the amended IT Act, 2000, all responsibility for ensuring that no ‘objectionable’ content is uploaded online and for taking down content will vest with the intermediary.
8) What happens if a Facebook post by a journalist or blogger invites an ‘abuse’ report?
Facebook relies on its user community to determine if the content is offensive or not. Every wall post, photo, note etc. has a report abuse link embedded in it. Unlike Twitter, Facebook maintains no record of censorship.
9) If you re-tweet a message on Twitter or use Storify as part of a story you file and it is subsequently deemed objectionable, who is responsible?
The intermediary hosting your site, your editor, reporter will be held responsible.
10) Is it ethical for journalists to use content that is on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter for their stories?
Content on social media networks is usually public, unless users activate privacy settings to restrict viewers. So journalists can use content from social media networks but it is a good idea to be ethical in using material that can compromise privacy.