Intent on curbing the spread of fake news in India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting recently released updated guidelines which sought to suspend a journalist’s government accreditation if they were found to be involved in the proliferation of fake news. As expected, the ministry’s new proposal generated widespread backlash from journos as well as eminent politicians on social media.
In wake of the backlash, the Prime Minister’s Office has today rolled back the new rules after directing the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to withdraw its press statement. As per a report from Times of India, the ministry later withdrew the contentious statement as per the PMO’s instruction.
“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”, read the ministry’s press statement.
The statement further added that the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists have been amended, and as per the new rules, complaints about fake news will be directed to the Press Council of India (PCI) and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), and after a 15-day evaluation, due action against the journo or news agency will be taken.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel and Senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury were among the prominent political figures who questioned the updated fake news regulation guidelines, with the latter even calling it ‘duplicitous’. The ministry’s chief, Smriti Irani, even had a back-and-forth with Patel on Twitter, but it was more of a politically-tinged clapback than a reasonable retort to his questions.
Glad to see you awake @ahmedpatel ji whether a News article / broadcast is fake or not will be determined by PCI & NBA; both of whom I’m sure you know are not controlled/ operated by GOI.
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) April 2, 2018
Following the outburst against the ministry’s move, the PMO ordered that the statement be withdrawn, directing that the Press Council of India (PCI) is the sole authority which can decide on issues associated with fake news.