Balancing Privacy Protection and Press Freedom


With the enactment of the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, 2023 that aims to

safeguard individuals’ privacy rights, setting forth provisions for data processing, user consent, and grievance redressal. However, amidst the goals of privacy protection, concerns have emerged regarding its potential impact on journalistic freedom of expression.


GS-02 (Governance)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2023
  • What is the issue?
  • Concerns
  • Implications
  • Suggested Measures
  • Rights of media

What is the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2023:

  • The Bill aims to process digital personal data in a way that considers both the right of individuals to protect their personal data and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes.
  • It provides a set of rules and best practices for the Government to use the Personal Data by also regulating it.
  • Features:
    • Scope and Applicability:

The Bill applies to the handling of digital personal data within India. It also extends to the processing of personal data outside India if it involves offering goods or services to, or profiling individuals in, India.

  • Consent Guidelines:

Processing personal data must have a lawful purpose and an individual’s consent. Prior to seeking consent, a notice must be provided containing specifics about the data to be collected and its purpose. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. For those under 18 years old, the legal guardian provides consent.

  • Rights and Responsibilities of Data Owners:

Individuals whose data is being processed (data principals) have rights, including the right to access information about processing, request correction or erasure of data, and designate a representative in case of incapacity or death.

  • Cross-Border Data Transfer

The central government will identify countries where data fiduciaries can transfer personal data. Such transfers will be subject to specified terms and conditions.

  • Exemptions and Data Protection Board

Certain cases are exempt from the rights of data principals and duties of data fiduciaries, except data security. The Data Protection Board of India, established by the central government, will oversee compliance, impose penalties, manage data breaches, and address grievances. Penalties, as defined in the Bill, range from up to Rs 200 crore for children’s rights violations to Rs 250 crore for inadequate data security measures.

What is the issue?

  • The DPDP Act introduces stringent regulations governing the processing of personal data, with users required to give explicit consent for its use. Notably, previous drafts of the legislation included exemptions for journalistic activities, recognizing the importance of press freedom in a democratic society.
  • However, the final version of the law omitted such exemptions, raising alarms among journalists and media organizations.


  • The absence of exemptions for journalistic activities under the DPDP Act poses significant challenges to media practitioners.
  • Journalists often rely on access to personal data, obtained through extensive research and investigation, to uncover stories of public interest. However, under the new law, journalists would be obligated to seek consent from individuals before utilizing their personal data for reporting.
  • Moreover, individuals featured in news stories could invoke their right to erasure, demanding the removal of published articles containing their personal information.


  • The implications of these regulatory changes are far-reaching, potentially undermining the role of journalism as a watchdog of democracy.
  • Journalists may face obstacles in accessing vital information necessary for investigative reporting, hampering their ability to hold the government and public officials accountable.
  • Furthermore, the government’s authority to compel data processors to disclose information could jeopardize journalists’ confidentiality agreements with sources, compromising the integrity of investigative journalism.

Suggested Measures:

  • Transparent Consultation Process: The government should adopt a transparent and inclusive consultation process to solicit feedback from stakeholders, including journalists and media organizations. Open dialogue and deliberation can help identify potential challenges and ensure that the DPDP Act strikes an appropriate balance between privacy protection and press freedom.
  • Legislative Remedies: The government has the authority to issue exemptions for specific entities or classes of data processors under the DPDP Act. Therefore, it is imperative for policymakers to promptly enact provisions exempting journalistic entities from stringent data protection obligations. This legislative remedy would mitigate the adverse effects of the law on journalistic free speech.
  • Public Disclosure of Feedback: The government should release public reports detailing the feedback received during the consultation process and the rationale behind its decision-making. Transparency in policymaking fosters accountability and ensures that diverse perspectives are considered in the formulation of legislation.
  • Strengthened Legal Safeguards: In addition to exemptions, the DPDP Act should include robust safeguards to protect journalistic activities. Provisions safeguarding journalistic freedom of expression and confidentiality should be enshrined in the core text of the law, ensuring enduring protection for press freedom.

Rights of media:

  • Although Freedom of the Press is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, it is generally understood to fall under Freedom of Speech and Expression, affording media entities the same rights as ordinary citizens.
  • Media possess specific rights to scrutinize the government and highlight issues of public concern through various media platforms. These rights include:
    • Defamation and freedom of the press
    • Freedom of speech and expression
    • The right to publish and disseminate information
    • The right to receive information
    • The right to conduct interviews
    • The right to report on court proceedings
    • The right to advertise
  • However, Article 19(2) imposes certain limitations to safeguard national interests and integrity. These restrictions can be applied in cases involving:
    • Threats against the sovereignty and integrity of India
    • State security
    • Maintaining friendly relations with foreign nations
    • Public order, decency, or morality
    • Contempt of court
    • Defamation
    • Incitement to commit an offense


As India navigates the complex landscape of digital governance, it must prioritize the preservation of press freedom while advancing privacy protection objectives. By engaging in transparent consultation processes, enacting legislative remedies, and strengthening legal safeguards, policymakers can mitigate the unintended consequences of the DPDP Act on journalistic free speech.