Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

MIB withdraws fake news guidelines after PMO directive

PM Narendra Modi asks I&B ministry to withdraw release on fake news Fake news: Indian PM wants withdrawal of punishment order
Deanna Wagner | 04 April, 2018, 01:35

The Guild slammed the Smriti Irani's ministry for teh order and said, 'Editors Guild of India strongly condemns arbitrary manner contemplated by I &B Ministry ostensibly to penalise any journalist or media organisation publishing fake news'.

Around Tuesday noon, the Prime Minister's Office directed the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to withdraw the order.

The fake news problem will be dealt with by the Press Council of India (PCI), Modi ordered.

Also, while Irani had sought to quash apprehensions of state interference by pointing out that the complaint would be looked into by the PCI and the National Basketball Association and not the government, the Press Council of India does have five Members of Parliament - three from Lok Sabha and three from Rajya Sabha - as members serving three-year terms.

The release talked of suspension of accreditation for six months in case of first violation, one year in case of second and permanently in case of third violation.

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. Political parties have also reacted to the ministry's move, terming it as a plan to gag the media. Shekhar Gupta, former editor of the Indian Express, tweeted. The order did not define fake news or make clear who could make a complaint.

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The Congress said fascism has touched its peak as it sought to "muzzle" independent voices through "fallacious" rules. That means, the government wants to control the press.

The Aam Aadmi Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist likened the situation to the "emergency".

The amended guidelines stipulated that the journalist whoever created and/or propagated the fake news will, if accredited, would have the accreditation suspended till such time the determination regarding the fake news is made by the regulating agencies. 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. Moreover, news organisations are not the only source of generation of fake news with the country awash with digital platforms of all hues and opinions that operate without constraints and have the potential to cause far more damage. They said that the rule is a direct or indirect attack on freedom of the press and a move by Modi's government to rule free speech ahead of the 2019 general elections.

They noted that journalists critical of leaders from Mr. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party had been under pressure since the party came to power in 2014.

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).

The journalists fear the controversial guidelines would be used to harass journalists.