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Synopsis: Media professionals need to introspect. Action against someone spreading fake news cannot be portrayed as a threat to freedom of the press.
Fake news causes social disturbance not only in India but globally. One false news item can spark panic and even violence in society. Media is the fourth pillar of democracy, and it is their duty to be the upholders of free speech, honesty, and civil discourse.
The peaceful farmers’ protest turned violent on January 26. Protestors changed the specified route for tractor march and went to Red fort. They hoisted a flag that was not tricolor.
- One of the protestor died due to overturning of the tractor. However, some media and political representatives claimed that he died due to police shooting.
- This fake news was broadcasted which added to inciting violence. Half- hearted apologies were made later.
- Several FIRs have been filed against media personalities for spreading fake news. Now, it is being claimed as an attack on free speech and liberty.
Why should the media introspect?
It is the fundamental rule of journalism to verify the news before sharing it but no such verification was done.
- First, there are many adverse consequences of spreading fake news. For example, it helps the nations who want to show India in poor light.
- Second, fake news undermines the credibility of the beneficiary of that. For example, fake news in support of farmer’s protests will only undermine their struggle.
- Third, these professionals speak about media freedom, but only they choose to speak for themselves. They have alienated the common citizens and vernacular media.
- Fourth, the freedom of speech does not give them a licence to spread fake news. Making mistakes once in a while is human but making errors daily and deleting them makes the intent suspicious.
- Fifth, journalists also have a duty towards the nation which comes along with the right to free speech.
What should be done?
Media needs to introspect about the fake news within their space. Any action against an individual fake news spreader cannot be showcased as press freedom under threat.
- Firstly, Institutions must introspect and have the ability to self-correct. Many healthy institutions display this characteristic.
- Secondly, a proper investigation would be a learning for celebrity journalists that they too are subject to the law of the land.