New Delhi: There is nothing wrong or obnoxious if a government intends to take remedial steps to check fake news but an independent statutory authority should decide on its veracity, the Press Council of India said on Tuesday.
The Council's comments came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to cancel its contentious guidelines on fake news that had been widely seen as a move to muzzle the media.
The PCI, in a statement signed by chairman Justice (retd) CK Prasad, said “no prudent person should or can justify" the dissemination of fake news.
“Fake news is a global menace and if any government intends to take remedial steps to check its spread, per se, there is nothing wrong or obnoxious about it, provided that the authority to decide the truthfulness or otherwise of an allegation of fake news is entrusted to an independent statutory body like the Press Council of India,” it said in the statement.
The PCI said fake news means news, story, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false. Soon after the directive on Tuesday from the prime minister, the information and broadcasting ministry issued a statement, saying the guidelines regarding fake news had been withdrawn.
Amending guidelines for the accreditation of journalists, the ministry had on Monday announced norms to contain fake news. It said if the publication or telecast of a fake news item was confirmed, the accreditation of the journalist behind the news would be suspended for six months in the case of a first violation and for one year in the case of a second violation. If there was a third violation, his or her accreditation would be cancelled permanently, the ministry had said in a press release.
The ministry decision drew sharp criticism from opposition parties as well as from media bodies. The PCI said the complaint of fake news filed by an individual, government or any other aggrieved person is dealt with by the Council following procedures laid down in the Press Council Act and Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations.
“However, it is only in gross cases of fake news or repeated involvement in fake news dissemination that the power to suspend or cancellation of accreditation of the journalists (should) be resorted to. The allegations need to be determined by the Council before any action is called for,” the PCI said.