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Media bodies livid over Centre's proposed guidelines to 'curb fake news'

Media bodies livid over Centre's proposed guidelines to 'curb fake news'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reversed the circular issued by Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry in regard to fake news. It would have opened the door for frivolous complaints to harass journalists and organisations to fall in line.

"The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the arbitrary manner contemplated by the Union Information and Broadcasting (I & B) Ministry ostensibly to penalise any journalist or media organisation publishing fake news", it said.

Following the PMO directive, the Ministry said its press release titled "Guidelines for accreditation of journalists amended to regulate fake news", which was issued on April 2, stands withdrawn.

According to highly placed sources in the party and the government, Irani took the decision suo motu, without consulting the PMO.

"Noticing the increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media, the Government has amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists".

If found that the news was indeed fake, he or she could also lose their accreditation for a limited period or permanently and thus be denied access to government institutions.

"The first thing to realise is that such measures of the government have absolutely nothing to do with the stated objective because they are the biggest perpetrators of the fake news", Mr Shourie said.

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The Congress said fascism has touched its peak as these norms sought to "muzzle" independent voices through "fallacious" rules. "It is another instrument the government is acquiring to suppress the press", the former BJP leader told NDTV. The AAP and CPI-M likened the situation to the "emergency". They said that the rule is a direct or indirect attack on freedom of the press and a move by Modi's government to rule free speech ahead of the 2019 general elections.

However, a journalist must be punished only "in gross cases of fake news or repeated involvement in fake news dissemination", Prasad said.

As India touts itself as the world's largest democracy, the country figures at rank 136 on the World Press Freedom Index for 2017, released by Reporters Without Borders for 180 countries.

The move comes as Brussels is working on a Europe-wide plan to tackle fake news online, anxious by Russian meddling in elections across the continent.

"In the new public arena in which false information circulates faster than real news, the defence of journalism requires reversing this trend by giving a real advantage to all those who reliably produce news and information, whatever their status", Deloire said.

The complaints are further dealt by the Council following the laid down procedure in the Press Council Act and Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations.

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