The Editor's Guild rebukes I and B ministry for 'Fake News' directive

ANI | Updated: Apr 03, 2018 19:50 IST

New Delhi [India], Apr. 03 (ANI): The Editor's Guild of India, on Tuesday, condemned the Information and Broadcasting (I and B) Ministry's directive to keep a check on fake news by the implementation of new rules to penalise journalists.

On Monday, Union Minister Smriti Irani headed ministry issued a statement that threatened to withdraw the accreditation of journalists, with the Press Council of India, who 'propagated' fake news.

In response, the Guild appreciated the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office's intervention in the matter, which saw the I and B Ministry withdraw its statement, while 'strongly' condemning the move, claiming that it would have opened doors for frivolous harassment of journalists.

The full statement is as follows:

"The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the arbitrary manner contemplated by the Union Information and Broadcasting (I &B) Ministry ostensibly to penalise any journalist or media organisation publishing fake news. 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.

The Guild acknowledges the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office to withdraw the I & B Ministry's notification but remains deeply disturbed that faith continues to be reposed on the Press Council of India to deliver justice on such issues. The recent reconstitution of the Press Council of India has been done in a manner that gives rise to doubts over the independence of the institution and its ability to play neutral umpire.

The Guild's nominees to the Council were disallowed on technical grounds. Also, the recent reconstitution of the Central Press Accreditation Committee has raised questions over the non-transparent processes being followed by the I & B Ministry as the Guild's application was ignored.

The Guild also points out that 'fake news' is a process that cannot be left to governments to initiate action when, on many occasions, the governments and the parties in power - both at the Centre and states - are charged with propagating fake news themselves.

Moreover, news organisations are not the only source of generation of fake news with the country awash with digital platforms of all hues and opinions that operate without constraints and have the potential to cause far more damage.

The Guild has always stood for observing the highest journalistic standards and is willing to work with the Central Government, state governments and media bodies to define what can be constituted as 'fake news' and take action against those found guilty of propagating such news without compromising on the independence and freedom of the media." (ANI)