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The J&K government is planning to roll out a new social media policy in a month for the “empanelment” of digital media including news agencies, news portals, wire services, news websites and “other related social media establishments”.
The process will require online news portals and agencies to register with DMs. An online media organisation applying for empanelment will need to show an office in the area, and should have at least 100 paid subscribers, Information Director Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary told The Indian Express.
Further, it should have been functioning “for at least five years before being empanelled for subscription by the Information Department”. The news site should be able to show at least 10,000 page views per day, and a news agency, a portfolio of published news items over the last one year bearing its credit line.
The domain name of online portals “should be registered for at least the next five terms from the date of application for subscription,” said Chaudhary in written replies explaining the guidelines, which have been submitted to the government.
“The social media policy has laid down norms for qualifying as a news agency or group or an establishment. It aims at providing assistance from government and empanelment for advertisements. At the same time it will help DIPR to have a database of authentic organisations or social media websites/groups etc which are being empanelled and will help law enforcement agencies to take action against rumourmongers…” Chaudhary said.
He said the draft policy had been put out in the public domain for a month until December 31, 2016, for views and suggestions. Suggestions and comments had been received from organisations, including the Kashmir Editors’ Guild, Press Association, Jammu Links, JK News Today, and more than 40 individuals and portals.
The government’s move comes in the wake of the months of turmoil in the Valley after security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, in which social media was seen as having played a role. The unrest continues to simmer, and was seen boiling over during the recently held Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll.
Kashmiri youth have taken to online platforms to express anger against the government through written content, as well as videos and still images of funerals of militants and purported excesses by security forces against civilians.
“Post July 2017… on various occasions this medium has been used for inciting violence and exploiting sentiments.
Many times rumours were reported to have been circulated, giving a tough time to the administration. Defamation of elected representatives and prominent citizens was another development,” said Chaudhary.
He said the guidelines do not include WhatsApp groups. He said in his remarks to The Indian Express on Saturday he had talked about “empanelment” of online groups and sites and this was wrongly interpreted as “registering” WhatsApp groups.