Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office has pushed back against the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s (MIB) latest decision to fight the fake news epidemic that is sweeping India and the globe.
On Monday, the MIB had announced that they would be changing the press accreditation guidelines for any journalist whose work is shown to constitute ‘fake news’. In light of strong criticism from both senior journalists and opposition members, PM Modi has directed the MIB to withdraw their press release and work internally with the Press Council of India on any changes.
In response to this directive, I&B Minister Smriti Irani tweeted that she is glad that a debate has been started around fake news, and that anyone is welcome to reach out to the MIB with ideas on how to fight fake news.
.@MIB_India is more than happy to engage with journalist body or organisation/s 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_India. 2/2
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) April 3, 2018
Earlier, Congress leader Ahmed Patel had both appreciated the need to “control fake news”, but also pointed out some dangerous applications of the new press accreditation guidelines.
3. Is it not possible that motivated complaints will be filed to suspend accreditation until enquiry is on?
4.What is guarantee that these guidelines will check fake news or is it an attempt to prevent genuine reporters from reporting news uncomfortable to establishment?
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) April 2, 2018
In a stronger vein, senior journalist and founder of The Print Shekhar Gupta had compared the move to former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous 1988 anti-defamation bill. He appealed to all media outlets to “bury their differences and resist this.”
Make no mistake: this is a breathtaking assault on mainstream media. It’s a moment like Rajiv Gandhi’s anti-defamation bill. All media shd bury their differences and resist this. https://t.co/pyvgymhIkF
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) April 2, 2018