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I&B withdraws its amended guidelines for accreditation of journalists

Context:

  • The Information & Broadcast Ministry has withdrawn its set of stringent measures to deal with fake news after the Prime Minister’s Office directed the same.

Background:

  • 2nd April, 2018: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has amended the guidelines for accreditation of journalists.
  • 3rd April, 2018: Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry had withdrawn its amended guidelines.

Reason behind the amendment:

  • Increasing instances of fake news in various mediums, including print and electronic media.

Reason behind the withdrawal:

  • The press organizations had threatened to launch protests against the move.
  • The government did not want any raging controversy on the freedom of speech.
  • There is no guarantee that these rules will not be misused to harass honest reporters.
  • There is no concrete definition on ‘fake news’.

Impact of fake news:

  • Hurts democratic ideals and principles,
  • Cause problems in good governance,
  • Cause market failures,
  • Rise to terrorist radicalization, and
  • Create biased viewpoints.

On ethical ground:

  • It adversely impacts:
  • Common brotherhood and raises intolerance,
  • Right to freedom of expression v/s responsibility of generating ethical information, and
  • Moral duty to develop a scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform.

Accreditation:

  • Certification of competence in a specified subject or areas of expertise, and of the integrity of an agency, firm, group, or person, awarded by a duly recognized and respected accrediting organization.

Amendments in the guidelines for accreditation of journalists (which have been withdrawn):

Regulating agencies:

  • Instances of fake news would get referred to:
  • The Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media and
  • News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media.

Regulating agencies will examine:

  • The `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA.  

Time period:

  • Determination is expected to be completed within 15 days.

After determination of fake news:

  • The accreditation shall be suspended for:
  • A period of 6 months – first violation,
  • One year – second violation, and
  • Cancelled permanently – third violation.

Press Information Bureau (PIB) accreditation:

Implementation:

  • Government accreditation is limited to the residents of Delhi, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Bahadurgarh, Ghaziabad and Gurgaon.
  • On average, an estimated 3,000 press accreditation cards are issued annually by the government.

Eligibility:

  • Correspondents or camerapersons – five years’ experience as a full-time working journalist
  • Freelance journalists – 15 years’ experience.
  • Note: The I&B ministry doesn’t issue accreditation cards to journalists working in digital media.

Benefits:

  • Journalists access to government buildings within Delhi-NCR,
  • Note: Journalists in the other parts of the country have to seek state government-issued press accreditation cards.
  • Railway fare concessions,
  • Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) card and
  • A certain number of government bungalows.

Way ahead:

  • Self-regulation is the key to balance freedom of speech and autonomy of media with the objective content regulation.
  • Press should not overcast its public duties over its private goals.
  • Information are ought to be objective and of public interest.
  • ‘Fake news’ should be legally described.
  • Strict punitive measures for whoever encourages ‘fake news’.
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