PM Narendra Modi asks I&B ministry to withdraw release on fake news

04 April, 2018, 01:38 | Author: Sheila Harris
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In its statement, the Ministry had said that based on the determination process by bodies such as PCI and National Basketball Association, 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.

Media associations and Opposition parties described the fresh guidelines as an attack on freedom of the press.

'It would have opened door for frivolous complaints to harass journalists and orgs to fall in line, ' it further said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reversed the circular issued by Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry in regard to fake news.

If found that the news was indeed fake, he or she could also lose their accreditation for a limited period or permanently and thus be denied access to government institutions. An "emergency meeting" of journalists had been convened at the press club in Delhi to deliberate on the notification.

"The government has no mandate to control the press".

"Spin, cheap shot, empty boast, outright lie, innocent mistake, an oversight - who gets to decide what's fake, what's not?" he continued. The I&B ministry will decide what is true and not true?

Welcoming the change of heart, media groups in India nevertheless cautioned the government against changing its mind.

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The ministry announced the withdrawal in a one-line statement after Modi's intervened.

The order, meant to regulate fake news, presented amended guidelines for accreditation of journalists, alarming the journalist fraternity.

He, however, added that the accreditation of the journalists can be suspended or canceled only in gross case of fake news and repeated involvement in fake news dissemination after allegations are determined by the Council.

The Congress said fascism has touched its peak as it sought to "muzzle" independent voices through "fallacious" rules. The AAP and CPI-M likened the situation to the "emergency".

The Opposition too questioned the government's intent behind the move and asked whether the move was "an attempt to prevent genuine reporters from reporting news uncomfortable to establishment".

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed the attempt as a brazen and draconian move to curb press freedom and said it showed the government "has lost its way". The bill does not appear to clearly define fake news but it allows for broad consequences, including fines of over 120,000 USA dollars as well as jail. There were also concerns over what would constitute fake news since the ministry hadn't offered a definition.

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 former editor, who had a reputation for his fearless writing and dogged perseverance, also cautioned the media against suggestions that the press council or other committees should have the power to act against media".

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