Fake News issue: Govt takes U-turn after PMO steps in
In a move that shook the entire journalism fraternity, Smriti Irani recently declared that journalists propagating fake news could soon lose their accreditation permanently. The announcement sparked off a furore and the Prime Minister’s Office had to step in for damage control. Narendra Modi directed that the press statement regarding fake news should be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed by the Press Council of India.
The amended guidelines stated that if any publication or telecast of fake news is confirmed, the journalist in question will be suspended for six months for the first offence. In case he does it a second time, he’ll be suspended for a year. A third offence will see him lose his accreditation permanently. The guidelines were released by the Information and Broadcast Ministry in a release.
Opposition leaders had objected to the announcement. Congress leader Ahmed Patel questioned the move, asking if it was targeted at preventing journalists from reporting news that made the establishment uncomfortable. Smriti Irani responded to his tweet saying that the Press Council of India (PCI) and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are not controlled by the government, and they will be the ones to check if a report was fake or not.
It is worth noting that accreditation is not a requirement under the law. Organisations broadcasting news must be registered and have a license, but the Indian law does not require journalists to register with the government. However, if a journalist is accredited by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), it allows him to get access to government offices and events.
Meanwhile, Twitter is abuzz with citizens voicing their opinions on the move, which many are calling as undemocratic.