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Ministry withdraws order on ‘fake news’(Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II)

Decision follows directions from PM
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry withdrew its order, issued recently, under which accreditation of any journalist found guilty of disseminating “fake news” could be cancelled.

Intervention by PM

“The PM has directed that the press release regarding the fake news be withdrawn and the matter be addressed only by the Press Council of India,” a senior official in the PMO said.

Earlier announcement

Announcing the norms on Monday night, the Ministry, headed by Smriti Irani, said accreditation of a journalist could be cancelled if the news reported by him/her was found to be “fake.”

The notification, which did not define the phrase “fake news,” said complaints would be referred to the Press Council of India if they pertained to the print media and to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if they related to the electronic media. The regulatory agencies would have 15 days to dispose off a complaint. During the period of probe, the journalist’s accreditation would be suspended, the note said.

The note further said that on first violation, the accreditation would be suspended for six months, on the second violation for a year and on the third violation, it would be cancelled permanently.

Government interference in Press
The government has no mandate to control the press. The media were also worried about growing incidents of fake news but the Press Council is the right platform to deal with complaints of any fake news.

What does accreditation mean for journalists?
Journalists accredited with the Press Information Bureau (PIB) are eligible, along with members of their family, for subsidised health services under the Central Government Health Scheme, meant for employees of the Union government. But there are ways in which PIB accreditation is important for a journalist to carry out her professional responsibilities.

The PIB accreditation card has two important advantages. First, in certain events involving the President and Prime Minister, and other Ministers, only PIB accredited journalists are allowed entry.

Second, accreditation allows a journalist to protect her sources. Since it comes after security clearance from the Home Ministry, accredited journalists are allowed to enter the premises of most Union government ministries without prior appointment. She is not required to register or record her presence at the reception, or with any other official in the Ministry.

This firewalls the journalist from attempts at finding out when and on how many occasions she visited the premises, and which officers she met.

The anonymity of sensitive sources is one of the essential principles of journalism across the world. It may take years for a source to start confiding in a reporter. The trust between the journalist and her source is, to a large extent, based on the latter’s faith that his/her identity will not be revealed. This becomes paramount when a source is willing to speak out against a senior official or Minister, or against the policies of the government.

Reporters and photographers with five years of experience as a working journalist, and freelance journalists with 15 years’ working experience are eligible for PIB accreditation.

Applications for accreditation are vetted by a Central Press Accreditation Committee headed by the DG, PIB.

(Adapted from the Hindu and the Indian Express)


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