Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry led by Smriti Irani has taken a tough stand on fake news. In an official statement, the I&B ministry headed by Smriti Irani stated that the government had amended the “Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists” in order to curb the instances of ‘fake news’ being spread, mostly through newspapers and television. The amendment will not cover websites or social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp. This is a bold move by the BJP government keeping in mind the fast approaching election season.
If the claims against a journalist are found out to be true, his/her accreditation will be suspended for 6 months for the 1st violation, 1 year for the 2nd violation, while if the violation happens for the 3rd time, the accreditation shall be suspended permanently. Two non-government bodies, Press Council of India (PCI) and News Broadcaster’s Association (NBA), have been appointed to verify the facts of the news reported as fake.
This should have been a welcome move for the Leftist and so called ‘honest’ journalists of India who often accuse Right leaning newspapers and broadcasters of being propagators of fake news and favoring the BJP.
The way these mainstream media personalities are reacting to Smriti Irani’s decision for regulation of fake news is a subtle acknowledgement of the fact that these guys have been peddling fake news otherwise they would have ideally welcomed this news as champions of free and fair journalism.
Eminent journalist and editor of NDTV, Nidhi Razdan, who had often expressed displeasure and concern over fake news being circulated in the past, has surprisingly called it a “gag order” and “sheer harassment”. Another eminent journalist Shekhar Gupta, founder of The Print, called it a “breathtaking assault on mainstream media” and has compared it with the infamous anti-defamation bill of former Congress Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
She wanted to tackle the problem of fake news. pic.twitter.com/FAbYhX70gS
— The Frustrated Indian (@FrustIndian) April 2, 2018
The reactions of the honest and true champions of “unbiased and verified” media have taken us by surprise. What’s difficult to understand is why the mainstream media who glorify and praise themselves as being trustworthy should be afraid of this amendment. They are the ones who accuse the so-called ‘paid media’ houses and websites of being propaganda driven and displaying favoritism. Why then, should they be worried? What’s hiding behind these fear and anger driven tweets, is an even bigger story. Are they afraid of having to prove what they have openly express till date without being worried about facts and figures? Would it be too difficult for them to account for the sensationalized articles and views they have been expressing all these years? Will it be difficult for them to mould news in order to suit their agendas?
We welcome this move by the government to curb fake news by Smriti Irani and we expect the other mainstream media houses to join us in this respect. With the social media boom in India, it has become very easy to speak and get away with factually incorrect, agenda-driven stories. We think that the media houses should have some credibility as to news and fact-checking, and verification must be carried out by everyone. The Leftist and the supposedly ‘neutral’ media houses have long evaded this net. The time is now ripe to bring them under purview of acceptable legal standards and to hold them accountable for their over enthusiastic, propaganda driven journalism.