Media bodies livid over Centre’s proposed guidelines to ‘curb fake news’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 03, 2018 Published on April 03, 2018

In solidarity: Press Club of India President Gautam Lahiri and Secretary General Vinay Kumar at a meeting held by media bodies on the issue of fake news, in New Delhi on Tuesday

In less than 24 hours after introducing it, the Centre on Tuesday withdrew its order that proposed stringent guidelines for the accreditation of journalists, in a bid to curb fake news.

No sooner had the communication been made public, discussion and debate amidst the media fraternity took centre-stage.

By Tuesday morning, social media, TV channels and all forms of media outfits were raging over the guidelines. Around Tuesday noon, the Prime Minister’s Office directed the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to withdraw the order.

The PMO further said the matter should be addressed by press bodies such as the Press Council of India (PCI).

Following the PMO directive, the Ministry said its press release titled “Guidelines for accreditation of journalists amended to regulate fake news”, which was issued on April 2, stands withdrawn.

Information & Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani tweeted: “PIB Accreditation Guidelines asking Press Council of India & News Broadcasters Association to define & act against ‘fake news’ have generated debate.

“Several journalists & organisations have reached out giving positive suggestions regarding the same. Information & Broadcasting Ministry is more than happy to engage with journalist body or organisations wanting to give suggestions so that together we can fight the menace of ‘fake news’ & uphold ethical journalism. Interested journalists and/or organisations may feel free to meet me at @MIB_India.”

What was propsed

On Monday night, a statement from the I&B Ministry said that under the new guidelines, the accreditation of a journalist would be permanently suspended following repeat offence.

However, it also said that for the print media, PCI would be the reference point, while for the electronic media, it would be the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).

In its statement, the Ministry had said that based on the determination process by bodies such as PCI and NBA, accredited journalists found to be involved in creating or propagating fake news would lose their accreditation for six months or a year, or permanently, in the case of repeated violations.

Journalists from all walks came together to fight the Centre’s move. Though the government subsequently withdrew the statement, journalists under the aegis of organisations such as Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association and Federation of Press Clubs of India got together to hold an open house on the issue.

In a joint statement, the journalist organisations said: “We welcome the retraction as it is in the interests of protecting the independence of the Fourth Estate. The journalists community is as concerned as the public regarding the purveying of fake news, which has the very potential of altering and subverting the character of Indian democracy.

Scope for reform

“There is ample scope for introspection and reform of journalistic practices, yet a government fiat restraining the fourth pillar of democracy is not the solution.”

In its statement, the Editors Guild of India said it acknowledges the intervention of the PMO to withdraw the I&B Ministry’s notification, but remains deeply disturbed.

It further said it cannot be left to the government to contain fake news when, on many occasions, governments and ruling parties are themselves charged with creating and propagating such ‘news’.

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Published on April 03, 2018
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