NEW DELHI: Several journalist associations on Tuesday attacked a central government order that threatened to take away the accreditation of journalists who were found propagating fake news.
But following widespread criticism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered to withdraw the order earlier in the day.
The order issued on Monday night said that a journalist’s accreditation would be suspended once a complaint of fake news was registered against him, which would be later determined by Press Council of India (PCI) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA).
Journalists and opposition parties took a serious note of the order issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and described the guideline as an attack on the freedom of press.
On Tuesday afternoon, the I&B Ministry said in a press release that the “Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists amended to regulate Fake News issued on April 2 stand withdrawn”.
Strongly condemning the government, the Editors Guild of India said, “By notifying that the I & B Ministry will initiate such proceedings, the Government was arrogating for itself the role of policing the media. It would have opened the door for frivolous complaints to harass journalists and organisations to fall in line.”
A joint statement issued by the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association and Federation of Press Clubs of India expressed their “deep concern” over the Monday order.
They said: “There is ample scope for introspection and reform of journalistic practices; yet a government fiat restraining the fourth pillar of our democracy is not the solution. The Press Council of India was primarily set up to protect the freedom of the press, not to clamp down on it.”
The associations also welcomed the move to retract the Monday’s order.
Speaking at an event in which the statement was released at the Press Club of India here, senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said though the Monday’s order had been withdrawn, there was very little to celebrate.
“What was the need of the circular in the first place? The government would consider such a circular is worrisome,” Sardesai said.
He said that the government was into the “business of propaganda”, which was also “fake news” and added that the government should be kept away to discuss the subject of fake news, a point which was raised by other speakers also.
He also said that the government had to step in as the media had failed to rein in fake news. “We should name and shame serial offenders of fake news.”
TV journalist Ravish Kumar said the opinion of journalists was not taken before Monday’s circular was issued and added that such attacks would not stop.
Nidhi Razdan, Executive Editor, NDTV:
“So basically it is a gag order. Because anyone can accuse a journalist of fake news and get their accreditation taken away, without a probe. This is sheer harassment of the press, nothing more. And what about the fake news factories like Postcard News? They aren’t even accredited.”
Barkha Dutt, editor of Mojo digital news platform:
“Fake news is a hugely valid concern and the media should take steps to weed it out but with these guidelines, there is something Trumpian in the air.”
Bhupendra Chaubey, senior news anchor, News 18 channel:
“Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) deserves full credit for listening to concerns of stake holders in journalistic community. FakeNews is a valid problem. Needs to be dealt with. But it needs to be thought through.”
Swati Chaturvedi, senior journalist and columnist, NDTV:
“Dear Prime Minister, your government peddles fake news on an industrial scale. Please stop the madness about this. Please stop anti free press move.”
If a journalist reports that Smriti Irani has a degree from Yale, will he lose accreditation for spreading fake news?
— Sanjiv Bhatt (IPS) (@sanjivbhatt) April 3, 2018
Now waiting for Panna Pramukhs on social media to tell us about the greatness of Prime Minister Modi for asking for thie fake news notice to be withdrawn.
— Ankur Bhardwaj (@Bhayankur) April 3, 2018