Government backtracks on its Fake news circular after media uproar

Published: April 3, 2018 - 15:43 Updated: April 3, 2018 - 15:47

Following a great uproar over the guidelines issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Monday for curbing ‘fake news,’ the government on Tuesday announced that the release stands withdrawn.
“PIB press release titled ‘Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists amended to regulate Fake News’ issued on April 2, 2018 stands withdrawn,” a release by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said.
In a press note issued on Monday, the ministry had said that to curb the increasing instances of fake news in various mediums, including print and electronic media, the government had amended the guidelines for accreditation of journalists, wherein such cases would get referred to the Press Council of India (PCI), if it pertains to print media, and to News Broadcasters Association (NBA), if it relates to electronic media.
The amended guidelines stipulated that the journalist whoever created and/or propagated the fake news, if accredited, would have the accreditation suspended till such time the determination regarding the fake news is made by the regulating agencies.
“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 statement said.
The ministry said that while examining the requests seeking accreditation, the regulatory agencies will examine whether the ‘Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and ‘Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ as prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists as part of their functioning.
“It would be obligatory for journalists to abide by these guidelines (while seeking an accreditation),” the ministry said.
The guidelines issued by the ministry earlier had caused a lot of uproar among media organisations primarily because the details were sketchy. Firstly, it did not define what fake news would mean. Also, there was ambiguity over the scope of the complaint, leading many to contend that the regulation could be used to muzzle the press if a story did not fare well with the government. Many press organisations had threatened to launch protests against the move if it was not withdrawn. With general elections just a year away, such a regulation could have been used to ensure that stories showing the government in a bad light are designated as fake news.

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