MIB withdraws fake news guidelines after PMO directive

MUMBAI: The ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) has withdrawn its controversial decision to suspend or cancel the accreditation of TV and print journalists found guilty of reporting fake news following a direction from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The ministry’s decision has faced all-round flak from the journalistic fraternity. Many saw the move as an attempt to muzzle press freedom in the name of tackling the menace of fake news. The biggest question mark over the MIB decision was the lack of clarity on ‘fake news’.

The PMO has now directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed in Press Council of India.

Tweeting about the retraction of the order, Smriti Irani said, “MIB is more than happy to engage with journalist body or organisations 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.”

On 2 April, the MIB had amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists to penalise journalists who write or broadcast fake news. As per the amended guidelines, if the publication or telecast of fake news is confirmed, the accreditation of that journalist would be suspended for a period of six months in the first violation and for one year in case of a second violation. In case of a third violation, his or her accreditation would be cancelled permanently, the MIB had said in a release.

The release stated that any complaint of instances of fake news would be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media, and to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), if it relates to the electronic media, for determination of the news item being fake or not. This determination is expected to be completed within 15 days by these agencies. The press release, however, didn’t define what constitutes fake news.

The accreditation committee of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), which consists of representatives of both the PCI and the NBA, would be reached out for validating any accreditation request of any news media agency. Once the complaint is registered for determination of fake news, the accreditation of the journalist, whoever created and/or propagated the fake news, will be suspended till the determination regarding the fake news is made, the release stated.

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