New Delhi, April 4 2018: Only a day after announcing punitive guidelines to Indian media to control fake news, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry withdrew its order, ostensibly on instructions of the Prime Minister.
The original order of the Ministry said accreditation of journalists found guilty of creating and propagating fake news would be suspended for six months in the case of first violation and for one year in case of a second violation. If an offender was held guilty of creating or propagating fake news a third time, the government said such a person's accreditation would be cancelled permanently. It said that the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association, the regulatory bodies for print and TV media, will decide whether the news is fake or not. The journalist’s accreditation would be suspended once a complaint is registered until either body decides if it is fake or not, within 15 days.
Yesterday the Ministry said: "The Prime Minister has directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed by the Press Council of India."
The Editors Guild was not fully satisfied with this withdrawal and said: "The Guild acknowledges the intention 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 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."
Only a day earlier, Malaysia had announced strict rules to curb fake news. If that was the example, it didn't work in India, where media and public opinion are more robust and vocal.
Read our invited article on Fake News challenges of media here