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Modi withdraws order threatening scribes over fake news

New Delhi, April 3: Under intense attack, the government made a hasty retreat as Prime Minister rendra Modi on Tuesday withdrew within hours his government’s order that threatened to take away the accreditation of jourlists involved in producing “fake news”.
“(The) Prime Minister has directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed in the Press Council of India,” an official source said.
The order issued on Monday night warned that jourlists would be denied access to the government even on mere accusations of spreading fake news and could lose their accreditation for a limited period or permanently.
Jourlists and opposition parties took a serious note of the order issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and described the guidelines as an attack on press freedom.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry release, which has been now withdrawn following Modi’s directives, had said that the government has amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Jourlists in view of “increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media”.
It had said that complaints of fake news would be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media and to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media for determition of the news item being fake or not.
It also said that accreditation of the jourlist will stay suspended till a determition is made in about 15 days.
The release talked of suspension of accreditation for six months in case of first violation, one year in case of second and permanently in case of third violation.
The release had said that the regulatory agencies, while looking at the requests seeking accreditation, will examine if ‘Norms of Jourlistic Conduct’ and ‘Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA have been adhered to by jourlists.
Shortly after the Prime Minister’s directive, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said in tweets that her ministry was happy to engage with jourlist organisations to fight the mece of fake news.
“PIB Accreditation Guidelines asking Press Council of India & News Broadcasters Association to define & act against ‘fake’ news’ have generated debate. Several jourlists & organisations have reached out giving positive suggestions regarding the same,” she said.
“MIB_India is more than happy to engage with jourlist body or organisation/s wanting to give suggestions so that together we can fight the mece of ‘fake’ news’ & uphold ethical jourlism. Interested jourlists and/or organisations may feel free to meet me.” IANS

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Ankur Kalita