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Journalist organisations express concern over I&B Ministry’s press release on fake news

04-April-2018
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Journalist organisations express concern over I&B Ministry’s press release on fake news

Here’s the joint statement issued by Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps, Press Association Kerala, Press Association Delhi, Federation of Press Clubs of India, Indian Journalists Union, Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Working News Camermen's Association.

The undersigned journalist organisations and individuals express their deep concern at the press release issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of April 2, whereby an accredited journalist's accreditation would stand suspended or cancelled if he or she was found having created or propagated fake news.

The press release further gave powers to the Press Council of India in the case of print and News Broadcasters Association for the electronic media to look into complaints and "determination of fake news". Pending such inquiry, a journalist's accreditation could be suspended temporarily, and upon confirmation that such news had been purveyed, it would be suspended for six (6) months or permanently cancelled in the eventuality of repeated violations.

As these concerns and the consequences for a fair and free media were widely reported, discussed and commented upon, we have learnt that the Ministry has withdrawn the said guidelines for the accreditation of journalists to regulate fake news today, i.e, April 3rd. We welcome and appreciate the retraction, as it is in the interests of protecting the independence of the Fourth Estate.

We wish to point out that the journalist community is as concerned as the public regarding the purveying of fake news, which has the very potential of altering and subverting the character of Indian democracy. While the misuse of any form of technology is a constant concern, distorted fake news or false information meant to create disharmony, create social divides or defame individuals or groups, are already covered by the statute books.

We would also like to point out that the Press Council of India was primarily set up to protect the freedom of the press, not to clamp down on it and to maintain and improve standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country. Its twin responsibilities also include, helping newspapers maintain their independence and build a code of conduct for journalists and newspapers in accordance with high professional standards. The NBA too is entrusted with laying down and fostering high standards, ethics and practices in news broadcasting and the entertainment industry.

There is ample scope for introspection and reform of journalistic practices; yet a government fiat restraining the fourth pillar of our democracy is not the solution.

We congratulate the media community for taking a unified stand on this issue

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