oppn parties 'Fake News Order': Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

News Snippets

  • Corona cases in India cross 4000 and the death toll stands at 124
  • The government decides to double the testing of corona suspects from 10000 now to 20000 in the next three days
  • Flipkart assures employees that there will be no job or salary cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Although it was obvious, but the government still clarifies that there is no need to switch off appliances and only lights need to be switched off on April 5 at 9pm after confusion in the minds of some people
  • PM Modi and President Trump decide "to deploy full strength of (Indo-US) partnership" to fight against COVID-19
  • 17 states have reported 1023 cases of coronavirus linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, which translates to 30% of all positive cases in India
  • The government says people should not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before lighting diyas or candles on April 5
  • The railways say there is no certainty yet when services will resume after the lockdown and a final decision will be taken in the next few days
  • As coronavirus cases multiply in Assam, six north-east states seal their borders with the state
  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd. (POCOSO) putting all systems and protocols in place at war-footing to ensure there is no grid failure due to reduction in demand on April 5 at 9 pm
  • Power ministry scotches rumours that the power grid might fail due to the 9-minute blackout called by PM Modi on Sunday, April 5
  • Centre asks people to wear home-made masks if it is absolutely essential for them to step out of homes
  • Centre asks states to allow licensed street vendors to sell essential items
  • 8000 samples were tested across India on April 2, but the government said that testing will be need-based and will not be used as a confidence-boosting measure
  • Air India operating special flights to fly passengers stuck in India since the lockdown
26 nurses and 3 doctors test positive for COVID-19 at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai, facility cordoned off, no entry or exit permitted from the hospital
oppn parties
'Fake News Order': Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2018-04-03 21:28:15

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Prime Minister Modi has nipped in the bud something that could have become a contentious issue between the government and the media and the opposition parties. By asking the Information & Broadcasting ministry to withdraw the order on ‘fake news,’ Modi has put to end to a raging controversy. But one part of the controversy remains as Modi has said that ‘fake news’ should be left to the Press Council of India (PCI), a body that is not truly representative of media associations as the government had rejected nominees of Editors Guild of India on technical grounds.

The order itself had several flaws. For one, it recognized only accredited journalists from reputed media houses as purveyors of ‘fake news’ and sought to temporarily suspend their accreditation from the day the piece of news was referred to media bodies for verification. This was akin to treating the accused guilty even before the enquiry was completed and was not just.

Then, it is a fact that ‘fake news’ is put out more by small publications whose journalists are not accredited or the mushrooming ‘news’ websites. These are the media outlets that need sensationalism to sell their product or grab eyeballs and they often twist facts and even fabricate ‘news’. The order did not specify what the government would do to check them.

It is a feature of Indian governance and laws that they punish only those who do legitimate business. A licensed, tax-paying business is subjected to all kinds of checks while a street vendor is not. Continuing this trend, the I & B ministry order sought to penalize accredited journalists from mainstream media and left the real source of ‘fake news’ alone.

This fact gave rise to the suspicion that the real motive behind the order was to throttle the freedom of the press, more so as the I & B ministry wanted to assume the role of policing the media by being the identifier of and complainant against ‘fake news’. Although the order said that the complaints would be referred to the PCI for violations in print and National Broadcasters Association (NBA) for TV, who would then conduct an enquiry, the contentious issue is that the ministry would make the complaint. It would have become a handy tool to browbeat the media and make them pliable enough to publish only that news that was to the liking of the party in power.

Instead of trying to control the media through such mischievous orders, the government would do well to strengthen the hands of the legitimate media units by coming down hard on the Tom ,Dick and Harry’s who are running ‘fake media’ websites and are otherwise using the digital platform to spread misinformation, slanted and ‘fake news’. It would also do well to constitute bodies such as the PCI in a fair and transparent manner with proper representation from all media bodies so that it can work to strengthen the fourth estate.

The government must recognize that there will be different editorial views in the media. Not all will be to its liking. But to assume that those who criticize the government are its enemies is wrong. The media is doing its work and the editor/anchor/columnist is only expressing his reading of the issue. If the government does good work, it has no need to fear any newspaper or TV channel as the people of this nation are intelligent enough not to be misled by biased views of a newspaper or TV channel.