Less than 24 hours after a circular put out by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting triggered massive uproar in the media due to its accreditation guidelines for curbing fake news, the Prime Minister’s Office has reportedly withdrawn the order. The PMO said that the matter would only be addressed to the Press Council of India.
The decision came minutes after I&B Minister Smriti Irani said that she was happy to “engage with journalist’s body or organisation/s wanting to give suggestions so that together we can fight the menace of ‘fake news’ & uphold ethical journalism” after many journalists asked her to hold a public consultation on the guidelines.
.@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 at @MIB_India. 2/2— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) April 3, 2018
On Monday, the I&B Ministry amended its guidelines for journalists to be accredited in order to curb fake news. The circular said that when it receives complaints of fake news, it would get referred to the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association, and the journalist’s accreditation would be suspended.
“Determination is expected to be completed within 15 days by these regulating agencies. Once the complaint is registered for determination of fake news, the correspondent/journalist whoever created and/or propagated the fake news will, if accredited, have the accreditation suspended till such time the determination regarding the fake news is made by the regulating agencies mentioned above,” the circular said.
"While any confirmation of publication or telecast of fake news having been confirmed by any of these agencies, the accreditation shall be suspended for a period of 6 months in the first violation and for one year in the case of 2nd violation and in the event of 3rd violation it would be cancelled permanently," the press release stated.
Journalists were up in arms after the circular was released, as the circular offered no clarity on what would be considered fake news.
Finally this press release shows a blinkered old media understanding of regulation. Chances are it will be used primarily as a proxy to harass and pressure accredited journalists who are best placed to check, “fake news”.— Apar (@aparatbar) April 3, 2018
The new guidelines are either a veiled threat to ensure print and TV channels don't report anything might lead to complaints or the govt has no clue about what the media is & what it does. Considering the ruling party's press campaigns and IT cell, the 2nd option seems unlikely.— Deepanjana (@dpanjana) April 3, 2018
In the name of curbing #FakeNews now govt wants to muzzle journalists & media houses...this is the real threat & it has to be questioned.— Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) April 3, 2018
While on this, a hypothetical: The PM lies in an election speech. I report his words as is. The claims turn out to be fake. Will the PM get suspended too, or is it only me?— Prem Panicker (@prempanicker) April 3, 2018
With its order today, government makes it clear that it only wants to penalise those who are accredited, i.e "Mainstream media". The I&B ministry’s "Fake News" threat doesn't extend to those websites that openly flout journalistic ethics, some q often quoted by Ministers. pic.twitter.com/SZ8v2AcLEH— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) April 2, 2018