India drops plan to punish journalists for 'fake news'

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"A fuming prime minister told his office to direct the I&B Ministry to withdraw the directive with immediate effect", the newspaper quoted PMO sources as saying. "One can clearly see a loss of control and panic setting in now", Rahul tweeted.

A journalist is accredited with the Press Information Bureau of the Centre after she/he has least "five years' experience as a full-time working journalist".

On Monday, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had said the government would cancel its accreditation of journalists who peddled "fake news".

According to this statement, the guidelines provided for automatic suspension of a journalist's accreditation every time someone complained that a news report was a "fake".

The agencies would complete the determination process within 15 days, the statement said.

A day after unveiling a set of rules aimed at penalizing journalists for propagating "fake news", the government of India has withdrawn the measure after it sparked an unprecedented outcry among journalists and proponents of the free press.

To further justify the amendment it was claimed that an increase has been witnessed in the "instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media".

PCI and National Basketball Association are regulatory bodies that govern the conduct of print and broadcast media respectively.

The guidelines drew a sharp reaction from the Congress and several journalists. Issues now are that the majority of fake news comes from online operators, and this release only concerns print and TV players.

In a sign of disdain for mainstream media, Narendra Modi, who is an active Twitter user and makes a monthly address to the country, has been asking his compatriots to follow the latest news and updates through his mobile app. Parallels were drawn with then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's Defamation Bill in 1988, which he had to drop in the face of joint action by the media. All media shd bury their differences and resist this. The journalists 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. "What is guarantee that these rules will not be misused to harass honest reporters?"

Journalists with a complaint registered against them would automatically have had their accreditation cancelled, till a regulating agency decided on the matter.

He said that the government was into the "business of propaganda", which was also "fake news" and added that the government should be kept away to discuss the subject of fake news, a point which was raised by other speakers also.

"Through the circular, I believe the government was testing the waters". The Anti-Fake News Bill was passed by the majority of parliament, with 123 members voting in favor and 64 members voting against.

Journalists welcomed the change, though many were also wary about what had happened. The Opposition parties, including the Congress, also attacked the government for its attempt to "scare and gag" the media.

But critics have questioned the BJP's commitment to fighting fake news, pointing to several party members' defence of the recently arrested founder of PostCard News on charges including committing deliberate and malicious acts meant to outrage sentiments as evidence of this.

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