Hyderabad: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has issued a fervent plea to the Lok Sabha Speaker, urging the referral of the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2023 to a parliamentary standing committee. The IJU has expressed concerns over certain clauses within the bill that, if implemented, could potentially curtail the freedom of journalists across the nation.
In a joint statement released on Monday, IJU President K. Sreenivas Reddy and Secretary General Balwinder Singh Jammu highlighted their reservations, particularly with regard to Section 36 of the DPDP Bill. This clause, according to the IJU leaders, might grant the government access to sensitive personal information of journalists as well as their sources. The provision, which permits the government to solicit personal information from both public and private entities, lacks a specific exemption for journalists, thus raising concerns about the potential misuse of this power.
The IJU further pointed out that the DPDP Bill, in its current form, includes provisions that grant the government an exemption from the bill’s own provisions. This exemption would allow the government to retain, internally share, and process data for an indefinite period. The union contends that these aspects could foster an environment of surveillance, potentially impeding the uninhibited work of journalists and casting a chilling effect on their activities.
Of particular concern is clause 44(3) of the bill, which the IJU has identified as detrimental to the media landscape. This specific clause aims to remove exemptions provided under the Right to Information Act, effectively enabling the withholding of personal information.
The IJU’s appeal to the Lok Sabha Speaker underscores the crucial need to strike a balance between data protection and the freedom of the press. As discussions surrounding the DPDP Bill continue, the journalistic community’s concerns remain at the forefront, with the IJU advocating for a careful examination of the bill’s implications and potential impact on journalistic practices and liberties.