Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office the PMO has directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn . The PMO further said issues to do with fake news should only be addressed in and by the Press Council of India (PCI), the regulatory body for print journalism. Following the order the I& B ministry withdrew the controversial order. The move by the I& B had received widespread flak from all quarters and said it was attack on press freedom
It may be recalled that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Smriti Irani had come out with stringent measures to deal with fake news.
It immediately drew flak by senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel who tweeted his fears/ apprehensions
I appreciate the attempt to control fake news but few questions for my understanding:
1.What is guarantee that these rules will not be misused to harass honest reporters?
2.Who is going to decide what constitutes fake news ?
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) April 2, 2018
The guidelines issued by the Union Information & Broadcasting ministry state that if the publication or telecast of fake news is confirmed, the accreditation of the journalist behind it would be suspended for a period of six months in the case of first violation. In the event of a second violation, the accreditation would be suspended for a period of one year. In the case of a third violation, however, his or her accreditation would be cancelled permanently.
The determinant body regarding any complaint for fake news would be the Press Council of India (PCI) for print media, and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for the electronic media. The ministry said the determination was expected to be completed within 15 days by these agencies.
The accreditation of the journalist who created and/or propagated the fake news would be suspended till the determination regarding the fake news is made after the complaint being registered, the ministry said.
The Accreditation Committee of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), which consists of representatives of both the PCI and the NBA, would be reached out for validating any accreditation request of any news media agency.
While examining the requests seeking accreditation, the regulatory agencies would check whether the Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’, prescribed by the PCI and NBA, respectively, are adhered to by journalists as part of their functioning. It would be obligatory for journalists to abide by these guidelines.
The regulatory agencies “will examine whether the ‘Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and ‘Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists” and it would be “obligatory for journalists to abide by these guidelines”.
Moreover , In a rare criticism the VHP, too had condemned the Centre’s move to amend the guidelines for accreditation of journalists in case of fake news, saying that the step amounted to an “undeclared emergency”.Stating that media was the fourth pillar of democracy, VHP international working president Pravin Togadia said curtailing their voices in any name was dangerous to citizen rights.
“We strongly condemn this undemocratic move by the government. This is nothing but an undeclared emergency,” he said in a statement. Without taking names, Togadia said those who opposed “such emergency” for 52 yrs were behaving this way after coming to power. “This is shocking and horrific,” he said. The VHP leader said agreeing or disagreeing with a media story was up to an individual, but choking media was unacceptable.
“This is the dangerous tendency by the rulers and we fear that it could even manifest in other areas of common people’s lives or for those who speak for the people,” he said.