The liberal media industry was in a state of roistering following the arrest of Postcard founder Mahesh Hegde for allegedly spreading fake news through his portal. Their celebrations were dampened on Monday when the I&B Ministry came out with a press release on fake news. The order was later revoked after the intervention of the PMO, who it seems, was not consulted by the I&B Ministry before releasing the new guidelines. However, the reactions of the ‘neutral’ journalists who experienced attacks of paranoia in these few hours were worth a laugh. They themselves exposed their hypocrisy. From their hypocritical reactions, a dichotomy between ‘righteous’ and ‘sinister’ fake news emerged. Fake news peddled by the Right is ‘sinister’, while that done by the Left and liberal media is ‘righteous’.
Wikipedia defines fake news as: “Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.”
The ‘ethical’ journalists crying foul on Twitter and claiming that the government is subjugating the freedom of press must remember that the order was aimed at curbing ‘fake news’ and not news or opinions of an individual. The hue and cry over steps taken to curb fake news makes me ask these journalists, why are you so agitated? Or is it that your careers, which are based upon innuendo laced, agenda driven news and blatant lies, are in danger? Such was the panic that Sagarika Ghose came up with this solution:
The I&B Ministry has no reason to exist. Why does a democracy need a "Ministry" of Information? It should be immediately shut down and its work force gainfully employed elsewhere. https://t.co/4H4GrTmEDy
— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) April 3, 2018
I did a bit of research on the press release and the emotions it evoked among the journalistic community. It can be safely said that journalists have either not read the press release or have failed to comprehend it. Even if they have understood it, they have claimed the quelling of free press by the ‘fascist’ government. Hence, below I briefly explain the order and its implications:
• The complaints which would be received by the ministry would be transferred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it relates to print media and to the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) if it relates to electronic media.
• Both the PCI and NBA are absolutely independent institutions governed by media stalwarts and career media professionals. Are the journalists questioning the integrity of these institutions?
• The final decision will be that of the PCI and NBA and the government will play no role in it.
• The guidelines provided three opportunities to the accused for taking corrective measures in the future and made sure that one instance would not ruin the career of the person involved. Even after three chances, if the journalist would continue peddling lies only that scenario would result in de-accreditation for life.
Sagarika Ghose amused me the most. She did not miss an opportunity to spread fake news at this instance too.
Modi government now arrogates to itself the power to determine what is news, what is fake news and to suspend journalists who IT believes are promoting fake news. Not even @realDonaldTrump would go this far!
— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) April 3, 2018
So Sagarika Ji, you must have thought that no one will bat an eyelid to this fake news but we’ve caught you. PM Modi’s government has not taken unto itself to punish fake news peddlers. It would be done by the PCI and NBA. Sagarika Ghose also tweeted this: “Fake news CANNOT be countered by govt clampdowns, but by more open-ness and free-er debate. At the same time, a rigorous effort needed by journalists committed to the ideals of the Fourth Estate to themselves expose the rot within, weed out those corrupting the institution (sic)”.
How about telling this to Siddaramaiah and releasing Mahesh Hegde then?
The order was not perfect in its entirety. The order said nothing about fake news that is generated by non-journalists. It was only restricted to accredited journalists indulging in fake news. Considering the fact that the bulk of fake news is circulated on social media, the order said nothing about the digital medium. Smriti Irani hinted at a conference last month that her ministry is working out a strategy for the digital medium and an independent body for it is likely to be constituted. The government needs to bring into effect an airtight law for fake news which incorporates print, electronic as well as digital mediums.
For far too long, a certain motivated section of Indian media has indulged in blaming the right wing for fake news. Can they please answer why the Left and the liberal/neutral journalists went crazy over this order, while the right wing was not even affected? Does this not make it clear where fake news originates from and who spreads it? While there is no denying the fact that fake news is spread by unethical right wing portals too, is it equitable to generalize the entire Right as a fake news factory?
The same journalists who were shouting their throats out in protest of this order shamelessly peddle such news, whether it be of ‘uncontrolled massacre of Muslims across the country’ or of a woman being raped for eating beef. Left-leaning portals continue to twist stories to fit their agenda. Why then, is the blame of fake news always put on the Right? These few hours of turmoil on the internet following the press release, if nothing else, completely exposes the hypocrites of Indian media who claim to be the flag-bearers of ‘Golden Journalism’. India must collectively act against the menace of fake news irrespective of which side of the political spectrum peddles it.
For now, all’s well that ends well. After PM Modi’s intervention, the I&B Ministry has revoked the order. The journalists who have a great dislike for PM Modi have been saved by him for now; however the question is, for how long?
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