New Delhi: Under intense attack, the government made a hasty retreat as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday withdrew within hours his government’s order that threatened to take away the accreditation of journalists involved in producing “fake news”.
“(The) Prime Minister has directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed in the Press Council of India,” an official source said.
The order issued on Monday night warned that journalists would be denied access to the government even on mere accusations of spreading fake news and could lose their accreditation for a limited period or permanently.
Journalists and opposition parties took a serious note of the order issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and described the guidelines as an attack on press freedom.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry release, which has been now withdrawn following Modi’s directives, had said that the government has amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists in view of “increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media”.
It had said that complaints of fake news would be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media and to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media for determination of the news item being fake or not.
It also said that accreditation of the journalist will stay suspended till a determination is made in about 15 days.
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.
The release had said that the regulatory agencies, while looking at the requests seeking accreditation, will examine if `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA have been adhered to by journalists.
Shortly after the Prime Minister’s directive, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said in tweets that her ministry was happy to engage with journalist organisations to fight the menace of fake news.
“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,” she said.
“MIB_India is more than happy to engage with journalist body or organisation/s 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.” (Agencies)