Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and press freedom are rights protected by Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The existence of cyber media in India is part of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and press freedom.
Cyber media have special characteristics that require guidelines to ensure their professionalism and that they fulfill their function, obligations and rights in compliance with both the press and the Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
For that reason, the Press Council and a number of press organizations, cyber media editorial board members and certain members of the public formulated the Cyber Media News Coverage Guidelines as follows:
- Cyber media are any form of media that use the internet and conduct journalistic activities, in accordance with the Press Law and the Standards for Press Companies established by the Press Council.
- User-generated content is any content created or published by users of cyber media, such as articles, pictures, comments, audio and video files and other files uploaded and attached to the cyber media, such as blogs, forums, readers’ or viewers’ comments and other material.
Verification and Fairness
- In principle, each story has to be verified.
- News that may harm a particular party should provide verification within the same news item to ensure accuracy and fairness.
- The provision in clause (a) above may be waived, on condition that:
- The news contains information of public urgency;
- The original source of news is clearly identified, credible and competent;
- The source of verification cannot be reached for comment;
- The media outlet explains to readers that the news needs further verification, and verification will be made as soon as possible. The explanation should be included at the end of the same story, in parentheses and italicized.
- Upon the publication of the news item in accordance with clause (c), the media must continue efforts to verify the news, and once verification is obtained, it should be listed as a news update with a link to the previous unverified news item.
- Cyber media outlets must announce the terms and conditions of user-generated content, which should not violate Law No. 40/1999 on the press and the Journalists’ Code of Ethics. The terms and conditions should be easy to read and understand.
- Cyber media outlets are obliged to require each user to register and go through a log-in process to be able to publish all forms of user-generated content. Provisions on the log-in procedure shall be formulated further.
- During registration, cyber media outlets must require all users to give written affirmation that the user-generated content:
- Does not contain lies or libel and is not sadistic or inappropriate;
- Does not contain prejudice or hatred toward certain ethnicity, religion, race or societal group and does not encourage acts of violence;
- Does not discriminate on the basis of gender or language, and does not disrespect the dignity of the weak, the poor or the mentally or physically disabled.
- Cyber media outlets must exercise their right to edit or delete user-generated content that violates point (c).
- Cyber media outlets shall provide a complaint mechanism for user-generated content deemed to violate the provisions in point (c). Such mechanism must be placed in a visible place so that it is easily accessible for users.
- Cyber media outlets must edit, delete and make any necessary corrections to user-generated content that is reported to have violated the provisions in point (c) immediately and proportionally within 48 hours after a report is received.
- A cyber media outlet that has complied with the provisions in points (a), (b), (c) and (f) is not responsible for liabilities resulting from the publishing of the content that violates the provisions in point (c).
- A cyber media outlet shall be responsible for user-generated content that has been reported if it does not carry out the necessary actions within the required period as stipulated in point (f).
Clarification, Corrections and the Right of Reply
- Clarification and corrections must be done when necessary and the right of reply honored in compliance with the Press Law, the Journalists’ Code of Ethics and the Guidelines to the Right of Reply established by the Press Council.
- Clarification, corrections and/or the right of reply message should be linked to the news to which the clarification, correction or the right of reply is related.
- The media outlet should post the time of the publication of each clarification, correction or the right of reply message.
- If the corrected article is also published by other cyber media outlets, then:
- The responsibility of the cyber media outlet that produced the article is limited to the article published by its outlet or other media outlets under its authority;
- Correction to the article carried out by the original cyber media outlet should also be made by other outlets that republish the article;
- If the media outlets that republish the article from another cyber media do not make the necessary corrections to the article after the original cyber media outlet has, the republishing media will bear all the legal consequences arising from the article on which corrections are not made.
Retraction of News
- A news article that has been published cannot be retracted on reasons of censorship by any parties other than the editorial board, unless it is related to prejudice and hatred toward ethnicity, religion, race or societal group, on grounds of indecency, the future of a child, traumatic experience of a victim or other considerations that shall be determined by the Press Council.
- Other cyber media outlets are obliged to follow the retraction of the same news item that the original media outlet retracted.
- The retraction of news should be accompanied with a public announcement on the reason for the retraction.
- Cyber media outlets must clearly distinguish between news and advertisement.
- Any news/article/content that is an advertisement or paid content should carry the description "advertorial", "advertisement", "ad", "sponsored" or other words explaining that the news/article/content is an advertisement.
Cyber media outlets must respect copyrights as governed by other laws and regulations.
Inclusion of the Guidelines
A cyber media outlet should include these Cyber Media News Coverage Guidelines in a visible place on its website.